aardwolf

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Hyaenidae (hyenas; suborder Fissipedia, superfamily Feloidea) A family of carnivores whose ancestors evolved rapidly from the Viverridae (civets) in late Miocene times. They are the youngest feloids and displaced the last hyaenodont (Hyaenodontidae) from the scavenging niche, and although today they are restricted to the Old World, one form entered N. America in the early Pleistocene. Hyenas possess heavy, blunt teeth and strong jaws, allowing them to crush bones and so to live partly by scavenging. The aardwolf (Proteles cristatus) resembles a small hyena superficially, and is also descended from the viverrid group, but it feeds mainly on insects and has weaker jaws and fewer teeth. Hyaenids have hind limbs that are shorter than the fore limbs, non-retractile claws, a digitigrade gait, and long skulls. They are distributed widely in Africa and southern Asia as far east as India. Apart from Proteles there are two or three genera: the spotted hyena (Crocuta) and the striped and brown hyenas (Hyaena); many authors now place the brown hyena in its own genus (Parahyaena).

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aardwolf (ärd´wŏŏlf), carnivore of the hyena family. The aardwolf, Proteles cristatus, resembles the true hyena but is smaller and more delicate. It has less powerful teeth and jaws and five instead of four toes on its forepaws. The coat of the aardwolf is yellow-white with dark stripes; a ridge of hair extends down its sloping back. It is a nocturnal, burrowing animal, inhabiting sandy plain and scrub from South Africa to Angola and Somaliland. A shy animal, it feeds on small animals and insects, especially termites, and defends itself by emitting a foul-smelling fluid from anal scent glands. A litter may include as many as six cubs, but two to four is typical; gestation is around 59–61 days. Aardwolves are solitary, but several females with cubs may share a burrow. In captivity they have been known to live as long as 13 years. Aardwolves are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Hyaenidae.

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aard·wolf / ˈärdˌwoŏlf/ • n. (pl. aardwolves / -ˌwoŏlvz/ ) a nocturnal black-striped African mammal (Proteles cristatus) of the hyena family, feeding mainly on termites.

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aardwolf (Proteles cristatus) See HYAENIDAE.

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Hyaenidae See CARNIVORA.