Unique animals from Ukraine. They live underground, there is a war over them

The gray furry furry muzzle with huge orange teeth similar to chisels is part of this sand blind man† The name does not lie – on the face of this unique rodent, which is rarely visible in the sunlight, it is difficult to see the eyes. If you parted the thick fur a little bit, you would find it – they are firmly hidden under the fur. However, it is better not to do this – the giant teeth of an underground rodent are a very serious warning. A blind man can bite them and cut them like a chiseland the wounds may turn out to be extensive.

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As a result, few predators are able to catch and eat a blind man, especially since he spends most of his life underground. There the huge teeth are no longer chisels, but shovels, and are used to dig large tunnels.

For the blind man has adapted to underground lifestyle just like a mole. However, it belongs to a very different group of animals than the well-known lover of gardens and lawns. He is a rodent, not a representative of insectivores like a mole, so his resemblance to him is a manifestation of convergence, not kinship. Blinds also have a dummy body, which allows them to move efficiently in narrow tunnels. They also nearly lost the ability to see in exchange for the development of other senses, especially touch and hearing, which are important underground. At excess land they throw them to the surface in the form of hills. However, this is where the similarities with the mole end.

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Underground rodents they differ from moles in that they have not developed as powerful and leaf-like front legs as they are. The mole cleaves the ground with them and drills a tunnel. A blind man has teeth at his disposal; it literally gnaws at an underground passageway. Let’s try to imagine…

Teeth come in handy also looking for food, for a blind man does underground what is wrongly accused of predatory moles, devouring earthworms and insect larvae – he eats plant roots. In case of sand blind man information about its diet is very scarce and the animal itself has never been properly researched. It is known to eat different types of steppe plants, such as Stipa or wormwood, from below. So it looks like a solid pest that destroys crops, but before we pass judgment on a blind man, it is worth remembering that this animal lived in the eastern territories Europebefore the local vast steppes were turned into fields and collective farms. We know that the blind man’s delicacy is the roots of the seedlings of many trees, so he limited their spread. Trees shed a lot of seeds, some of them and the seedlings should be eaten to avoid uncontrolled expansion. It’s a natural form of nature’s control over what happens.

When the man and his crops appeared, however, the blind man was on enemy leaves† In fact, however, these rodents have suffered more from human activity than vice versa. Chemical fertilizers, pesticides, deep plowing, drought, and finally simple extermination and poisoning have contributed to several types of living blind in Eastern and Southern Europe many are on the fringe. One of them is the sand blind man.

This one Ukrainian endemic, outside this country is nowhere to be found. The remains of the population of these rodents still live around the left bank of the Dnieper at the mouth of the Black Sea, which is covered with sandy and loose soils† Only like this the rodent toleratesin others it cannot dig. And these areas are located in the area of ​​​​Kherson Oblast, which was plunged into war after the invasion of Russia.

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Sand blind man is one of the two endemic mammals living in Ukraine† The second is his close relative the blind man from Podole – a relic from the ancient ice ages, inhabiting the last virgin steppes between the Dnieper and the Ukrainian border with Poland, Moldova and Romania† Sometimes the Podolian Blind can also be found in fields, meadows and even old training groundsthat they like.

Today, however, all of Ukraine looks like a training ground. The war after the Russian aggression has left many of its territories crushed by tanks and transports, torn apart by explosions from bombs and mines. People suffer, but animals also suffer underground.

Sensitive to sounds from the surface, the blanks were a dying species before the war. In the classification Red List of Endangered Animals Podolskie dumplings had VU status, meaning they were in danger of extinction. The sand-blind man from Kherson Oblast is even worse — he’s been given EN status, meaning he’s in danger of extinction due to habitat loss, environmental changes, and poisoning. Now comes the warfare.

War can cause that Ukraine loses both endemic mammals, which are in some ways a symbol of the country’s steppe landscape, even if they are not often seen on the surface. The blind people still lived here when mammoths and woolly rhinoceroses roamed the Ukrainian lands. Now they can disappear.

Of the remaining blind men we have the following: steppe blind manliving on the border Ukraine and Russia (so war threatens him too), a blind man from the Balkans who in Ukraine, Moldova and Romaniagiant blind man from transcaucasia, pontic blind man from turkey, middle east and balkan, different kinds from middle east, such as judean blind man, carmel blind man, golan blind man, levantine blind man, and also a Kazakh blind man from Central Asia and others. However, these two are special – the Podolia and the sand-blind man only live in Ukraine. And they are almost extinct.

Together with them we can get rid of the priceless secret that their bodies hold. Well, rodents are animals that have very short lives in the wild. A blind man is an exception, he lives up to 20 years and more, not just because he hides underground from predators. The secrets of longevity are contained in his body and immune system† And this secret says: A blind man with cancer has never been found.

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Prof. Andrei Seluanov and Vera Gorbunova from the University of Rochester spent years researching cancer resistance in blindly related underground barnacles from East Africa. Men’s hair is often hypersensitive cancer cellswhich simply stop multiplying if their density is too high. The blind men, on the other hand, have come up with another way to fight cancer. It is the production of interferon beta, one of those proteins formed in the body in response to the appearance of the pathogen.

The organism of the underground mammal recognizes itself as a tumor threat and which cancer cells attacks with interferon† Not only the cancer cells themselves are killed, but also the adjacent cells – in case they become infected. Prof. Gorbunova believes that this mechanism can be used in humans. The condition is, however, that the blind remain alive and return to the research conducted on them before the war in Ukraine. Today it is impossible and it is not known how much the population of these mysterious mammals will suffer during the battles.

Text: Radosław Nawrot

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