aardvark

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Aardvark

Aardvarks (Orycteropus afer ) are nocturnal, secretive, termite- and ant-eating mammals, and are one of Africas strangest animals. Despite superficial appearances, aardvarks are not classified as true anteaters; they have no close relatives and are the only living species of the order Tubulidentata and family Orycteropodidae. Aardvarks are large, pig-like

animals weighing from 88-143 lb (40-65 kg) and measuring nearly 6 ft (1.8 m) from nose to tip of tail. They have an arched, brownish-gray, almost hairless body with a tapering pig-like snout at one end and a long tapering tail at the other. Their legs are powerful and equipped with long, strong claws for digging. The first white settlers in South Africa named these peculiar animals aardvarks, which means earth pigs in Afrikaans.

Aardvarks are found throughout Africa south of the Sahara Desert. They spend the daylight hours in burrows and forage for food at night. Fleshy tentacles around the nostrils may be chemical receptors that help locate prey. Grunting, shuffling, and occasionally pressing their nose to the ground, aardvarks zigzag about in search of insects. Termites are their favorite food. Using powerful limbs and claws, aardvarks tear apart concrete-hard termite mounds and lick up the inhabitants with their sticky, foot-long tongues. Aardvarks also eat ants, locusts, and the fruit of wild gourds. Adapted for eating termites and ants, the teeth of aardvarks are found only in the cheeks, and have almost no enamel or roots.

Female aardvarks bear one offspring per year. A young aardvark weighs approximately 4 lb (2 kg) when born and is moved to a new burrow by its mother about every eight days. After two weeks the young aardvark accompanies its mother as she forages, and after about six months it can dig its own burrow.

Hyenas, lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, and humans prey on aardvarks. Pythons occasionally enter aardvark burrows and may eat the young. Many Africans regard aardvark meat as a delicacy, and some parts of the animal are valued by many tribes for their supposed magical powers. If caught in the open, aardvarks leap and bound away with surprising speed; if cornered, they roll over and lash out with their clawed feet. An aardvarks best defense is digging, which it does with astonishing speed even in sun-baked, rock-hard soil. In fact, aardvarks can penetrate soft earth faster than several men digging frantically with shovels.

Since aardvarks have a specialized diet, they are vulnerable to habitat disturbances. They are widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa, but their numbers in each area are small. There are no known conservation efforts directed specifically at aardvarks, but they do occur in most large national parks and other conservation areas in Africa.

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Aardvark

Aardvarks are nocturnal, secretive, termite- and anteating mammals , and are one of Africa's strangest animals. Despite superficial appearances, aardvarks are not classified as true anteaters ; they have no close relatives and are the only living species of the order Tubulidentata and family Orycteropodidae. Aardvarks are large piglike animals weighing from 88-143 lb (40-65 kg) and measuring nearly 6 ft (1.8 m) from nose to tip of tail. They have an arched body with a tapering piglike snout at one end and a long tapering tail at the other. Their legs are powerful and equipped with long, strong claws for digging. The first white settlers in South Africa named these peculiar animals aardvarks, which means earth pigs in Afrikaans.

Aardvarks are found throughout Africa south of the Sahara Desert. They spend the daylight hours in burrows and forage for food at night. Grunting, shuffling, and occasionally pressing their nose to the ground, aardvarks zigzag about in search of insect prey . Fleshy tentacles around the nostrils may be chemical receptors that help locate prey. Their favorite food is termites . Using their powerful limbs and claws, aardvarks tear apart concrete-hard termite mounds and lick up the inhabitants with their sticky foot-long tongue. Aardvarks also eat ants , locusts, and the fruit of wild gourds. Adapted for eating termites and ants, the teeth of aardvarks are found only in the cheeks, and have almost no enamel or roots.

Female aardvarks bear one offspring per year. A young aardvark weighs approximately 4 lb (2 kg) when born, and is moved to a new burrow by its mother about every eight days. After two weeks the young aardvark accompanies its mother as she forages, and after about six months it can dig its own burrow.

Hyenas, lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, and humans prey on aardvarks. Many Africans regard aardvark meat as a delicacy, and some parts of the animal are valued by many tribes for their supposed magical powers. If caught in the open, aardvarks leap and bound away with surprising speed; if cornered, they roll over and lash out with their clawed feet. An aardvark's best defense is digging, which it does with astonishing speed even in sun-baked, rock-hard soil. In fact, aardvarks can penetrate soft earth faster than several men digging frantically with shovels.

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Orycteropodidae (aardvark; superorder Protoungulata, order Tubulidentata) A family of animals, known from the Miocene in Africa and the Oligocene in Europe, that are isolated from all other mammal groups and that may be similar to Condylarthra. An orycteropodid is about the size of a small pig. The teeth are peg-like, consisting only of premolars and molars in the form of columns of dentine with no enamel, and grow continuously. The snout is long, the mouth round, the tongue long and worm-like. The animal is able to bury its snout in earth and locate and swallow prey while continuing to breathe. The limbs are specialized for digging, and digging is used as a means of escape from danger as well as to obtain food. The olfactory region of the brain is highly developed. The ears are long and the sense of hearing acute. There is only one extant species, Orycteropus afer (aardvark), distributed throughout Africa south of the Sahara.

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aardvark (ärd´värk) [Du.,=ground pig], nocturnal mammal of the genus Orycteropus, sole representative of the order Tubulidentata. There are two species, one in central Africa and the other in S Africa. The aardvark, about 6 ft (180 cm) long, has a long snout, large erect ears, an almost naked or sparsely haired body, and a long tail. Its forefeet are adapted for making burrows in the ground and for clawing open the nests of ants and termites in order to capture the insects with its long sticky tongue. Its cylindrical teeth are continuously growing and without enamel or roots. The aardvark resembles the New World anteaters but is not closely related to them. It is also called ant bear or earth pig. Aardvarks are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Tubulidentata, family Orycteropodidae.

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aard·vark / ˈärdˌvärk/ • n. a nocturnal burrowing African mammal (Orycteropus afer, family Orycteropidae) with long ears, a tubular snout, and a long extensible tongue, feeding on ants and termites. ORIGIN: late 18th cent.: from South African Dutch, from aarde ‘earth’ + vark ‘pig.’

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aardvark Nocturnal, bristly haired mammal of central and s Africa. It feeds on termites and ants, which it scoops up with its sticky 30cm (12in) tongue. Length: up to 1.5m (5ft); weight: up to 70kg (155lb). It is the only representative of the order Tubulidentata.

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aardvark (ant bear, Orycteropus afer) See ORYCTEROPODIDAE.