Cryptochloris zyli Shortridge & Carter, 1938:284

Van Zyl's golden mole



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Cryptochloris wintoni zyli Shortridge & Carter, 1938:284


Taxonomic history

Originally described as a full species (Cryptochloris zyli) by (Shortridge & Carter, 1938:284), it was reduced to a subspecies of Winton's golden mole (Cryptochloris wintoni zyli) by (Ellerman et al., 1953) and retained as a subspecies by (Simonetta, 1968:40), before being re-elevated to full species status by (Meester, 1974). It has been treated as a valid species by most authors in recent decades (Meester et al., 1986; Skinner & Smithers 1990; Hutterer 1993; Nowak 1999; Bronner & Jenkins, 2005; Skinner & Chimimba, 2005; Bronner, 2008, 2013, 2015; Taylor et al., 2018).


Generic placement

"Recent (but still unpublished) phylogenetic analyses based on both morphological and genetic data support the allocation of these taxa to separate species, and justify synonymizing Cryptochloris as a subgenus of Chrysochloris, corroborating the close phylogenetic association of these taxa reported by Asher et al. (2010)."

(Bronner, 2015)


Conservation Status

Last record: 28 March 1938 (Helgen & Wilson, 2001:111)

Rediscovered in November 2003

IUCN RedList status: Endangered


Three specimens were collected from the type locality (Compagnies Drift, Western Cape Province) in 1937-1938 (viz. 13 January 1937, January 1938, 28 March 1938) (Helgen & Wilson, 2001:111), before the species was rediscovered 150km north in November 2003 at Groenriviermond, Northern Cape Province (Bronner, 2015).



South Africa (Compagnies Drift, northwestern Western Cape Province; Groenriviermond, Northern Cape Province) (Bronner, 2015)


Anatomy & Morphology

Total length 8cm (Stuart & Stuart, 2015)


Biology & Ecology




Holotype: AM 837 [ex 3477] (adult male; collected 13 January 1937)

Type locality: Compagnies Drift, '10 miles [16.1 km] inland from Lamberts Bay', in the northwestern Western Cape Province (Shortridge & Carter 1938:284; Helgen & Wilson, 2001:111)


Other specimens:

BMNH 49-240 [ex AM 842] (skull) (Simonetta, 1968:39; Helgen & Wilson, 2001:111)

MCZ 39628 [ex 3650] (skin and skull, sex unknown; collected January 1938) (Helgen & Wilson, 2001:111)






Original scientific description:

Shortridge, G. C. and Carter, T. D. (1938). A new genus and new species and subspecies of mammals from Little Namaqualand and the north-west Cape Province; and a new subspecies of Gerbillus paeba from the eastern Cape Province. Annals of the South African Museum 32: 281-291.


Other references:

Asher, R. J., Maree, S., Bronner, G. N., Bennett, N. C., Bloomer, P., Czechowski, P., Meyer, M. and Hofreiter, M. (2010). A phylogenetic estimate for golden moles (Mammalia, Afrotheria, Chrysochloridae). BMC Evolutionary Biology 10: 69.

Bronner, G. N. (2008). Cryptochloris zyli. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. ( Downloaded on 30 March 2013.

Bronner, G. N. (2013). Cryptochloris zyli, pp. 250-251. In: Kingdon, Jonathan, Happold, D., Butynski, T., Hoffmann, M., Happold, M. and Kalina, J. (eds.). Mammals of Africa, Volume I: Introductory Chapters and Afrotheria. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Bronner, G. N. (2015). Cryptochloris zyli. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T5749A21286235. Accessed on 16 May 2023.

Bronner, G. N. and Asher, R. (2016). A conservation assessment of Cryptochloris zyli. In M. Child, L. Roxburgh, E. Do Linh San, D. Raimondo, & H. Davies-Mostert (eds.). The Red List of Mammals of South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho. South Africa.: South African National Biodiversity Institute and Endangered Wildlife Trust.

Bronner, G. N. and Jenkins, P. D. (2005). Order Afrosoricida, pp. 70-81. In: D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder (eds.). Mammal Species of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, USA.

Cowan, O. S., Henry, D. A. W. and Little, I. T. (2020). Using applied research to conserve secretive Afrotheria: species distribution modelling to inform Environmental Impact Assessments in South Africa. Afrotherian Conservation 16: 2-4.

Ellerman, J. R., Morrison-Scott, T. C. S. and Hayman, R. W. (1953). Southern African Mammals 1758 to 1951: A Reclassification. London: British Museum (Natural History). 363 pp.

Gelderblom, C. M. and Bronner, G. N. (1995). Patterns of distribution and protection status of the endemic mammals in South Africa. African Zoology 30(3): 127-135.

Gilbert, C., O'Brien, P. C., Bronner, G. N., Yang, F., Hassanin, A., Ferguson-Smith, M. A. and Robinson, T. J. (2006). Chromosome painting and molecular dating indicate a low rate of chromosomal evolution in golden moles (Mammalia, Chrysochloridae). Chromosome Research 14: 793-803.

Helgen, K. M. and Wilson, D. E. (2001). Additional material of the enigmatic golden mole Cryptochloris zyli, with notes on the genus Cryptochloris (Mammalia: Chrysochloridae). African Zoology 36(1): 110-112.

Hutterer, Rainer. (1993). Order Insectivora, pp. 69-130. In: Wilson, D. E. and Reeder, D. R. (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, 2nd edn. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Meester, J. (1974). Family Chrysochloridae. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Meester, J. (1976). South African red data book–small mammals. S. Afr. Natl. Sci. Programmes Rept. 11: vi + 59 pp.

Meester, J. A. J., Rautenbach, I. L., Dippenaar, N. J. and Baker, C. M. (1986). Classification of Southern African Mammals. Transvaal Museum Monograph 5: 1-359.

Mynhardt, Samantha, Matthew, E., le Roux, J.P. et al. (2023). Environmental DNA from soil reveals the presence of a “lost” Afrotherian species. Biodivers. Conserv.

Mynhardt, Samantha and Theron, Cobus. (2021). Diamond mine or gold mine? Using eDNA to identify golden moles along the west coast of South Africa. Afrotherian Conservation 17: 14-16.

Nowak, Ronald M. (1999). Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th edn. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Scheffers, Brett R., Yong, Ding Li, Harris, J. Berton C., Giam, Xingli and Sodhi, Navjot S. (2011). The world’s rediscovered species: back from the brink? PLoS ONE 6(7): e22531. [Supporting Information (Table S1)]

Siegfried, W. R. and Brown, C. A. (1992). The distribution and protection of mammals endemic to southern Africa. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 22(1): 11-16.

Simonetta, Alberto M. (1968). A new golden mole from Somalia with an appendix on the taxonomy of the family Chrysochloridae (Mammalia, Insectivora). Monitore zoologici Italiano 2(Supplement): 27-55.

Skinner, John Dawson and Chimimba, Christian T. (2005). The Mammals of the Southern African Sub-region, 3rd ed. Cape Town, South Africa: Cambridge University Press. [15 November]

Skinner, John Dawson and Smithers, R. H. N. (1990). Mammals of the Southern African Subregion, 2nd edition. Pretoria: University of Pretoria.

Smithers, R. H. N. (1986). South African Red Data Book - Terrestrial Mammals. South African National Scientific Programmes Report 125: 1-216.

Stuart, Chris T. and Stuart, Mathilde. (2015). Stuarts' Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa: Including Angola, Zambia & Malawi. Penguin Random House South Africa. [27 March]

Taylor, W. A., Mynhardt, S. and Maree, S. (2018). Family Chrysochloridae (Golden Moles). In: Mittermeier, Russell A. and Wilson, D. E. (eds.). Handbook of the Mammals of the World – Volume 8 Insectivores, Sloths and Colugos (Vol. 8). Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions.


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