- Posted by Nelson Tumwesigye
- On February 26, 2015
- 0 Comments
Sometimes called the African antbear /anteater, the Aardvark is a burrowing, nocturnal mammal and the only living species of order tubulidentata; a group of mammals with tubule like teeth. It is a medium sized mammal about 2m long with a long snout that portrays it as a relative of the pig family though they have been found to be totally unrelated.
The aardvark is pale yellowish-gray in color and often stained reddish-brown by soil. It’s coat is thin, and it’s primary protection is its tough skin. Its hair is short on its head and tail and longer at its legs.
The head is elongated and fixed on a short and thick neck. The snout bears a disc that houses nostrils while it’s teeth lack enamel coating and are worn away and re grow continuously. Aardvarks are born with conventional incisors and canines at the front of the jaws but later fall out and never grow again while adults retain only cheek teeth at the back of the jaws.
The animal inhabits most of the Sub Saharan Africa and is a nocturnal animal which walks for several kms every night in search for food which is predominantly ants and termites. They have long snouts, arched back, rabbit-like ears and a kangaroo like tail. It’s hind limbs are longer than the fore limbs with the forelimbs having 4 toes and the hind ones having 5 toes. Each toe has a large robust nail that is flat and shovel-like and appears to be intermediate between a claw and a hoof.
The claws are used for digging burrows in the ant hills in search for ants and termites as well as digging their own burrows for rest and sheltering their young ones. The aardvarks weigh averagely between 60kg to 80kg with an average length of 105cm to 130cm those may reach 2.2m if the tail is included.
Despite some physical similarities with the giant anteater of South America, the aardvark has a long snout which it uses to sniff out food hence drawing it closer to the pig family. Despite its pig body- like structure, the aardvark is rather a sole extant representative of the obscure mammalian order Tubulidentata, in which it is usually considered to form one variable species of the genus Orycteropus, the sole surviving genus in the family Orycteropodidae.
The closest living relatives of aardvarks are the elephant shrews, together with sirenians, hyraxes, elephants and tenrecs which all together form the super order Afrotheria. The name aardvark originated from the Afrikaan language of South Africa and means the ‘earth pig’ which could have been as a result of its burrowing behavior and snout.
The aardvark can live up to 23 years in captivity and is preyed by lions, leopards, hyenas, pythons and sometimes humans who hunt them for meat. When threatened or attacked, aardvarks will attempt to dig faster and hide in their burrows or run in a zig zag motion to evade the enemy. At times when other options fail, the aardvark will attack with its claws tail and shoulder and may cause substantial injury to the attacker. Sometimes they may flip onto their backs and lie motionless to deceive the enemy and their thick skin may also be a great defensive measure.
At Africa Adventure Safaris we endeavor to make you know things that no other company will let you know. We value our clients and endeavor to give them the most updated and precise information they deserve. Below we summed up some of the interesting facts about this creature.
1. The aardvark can eat up to 60 000 ants and termites in one night, thanks to its 30cm-long sticky tongue
2. They can seal their nostrils, to keep out dust and ants
3. They have poor eyesight but a very keen sense of smell and good hearing
4. Their spoon-shaped claws are like steel – and used to rip into extremely hard ground and termite mounds
5. Their burrows, often in termite mounds, can be up to 13m long and have several entrances
6. They change burrows frequently, providing opportunity for subsequent residents like wild dogs, pythons, warthogs and South African shelduck
7. They are nocturnal and travel up to 16km every night, foraging for food
8. They grow up to 2m meters long and weigh up to 60kg
9. With the body of a pig, ears of a rabbit, tongue of an anteater and tail of a kangaroo, this creature is in fact the only species in its order and probably mostly closely related to elephants
10. The Aardvark is the first word in the English dictionary