As a whole, moles are best known for their tunnels, even though some talpids are not fossorial species. Evidence of tunnelers' activities is often visible as "mole runs" that zig-zag across an otherwise level lawn or forest trail. The runs are actually the roofs of the tunnels. These shallow tunnels are usually feeding runs, which the mole uses to seek out subterranean earthworms or other invertebrates. Moles can make the shallow tunnels rather quickly, with the eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus) tunneling at a rate of up to 15 ft (4.6 m) an hour. Their activities are also frequently evident as molehills. While they pack some dirt to make the walls of the tunnel, fossorial larbone, or clavicle, and the forefeet are turned outward rather than down. This combination of features permits a strong, sideways sweeping action that is efficient for digging or swimming.

Conspecific males and females are commonly similar in appearance, although the average male is often a bit larger.

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