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Friday, July 26, 2013

Species Fact Profile: Aardvark (Orycteropus afer)


Orycteropus afer (Pallas, 1766)

Range: Eastern and Southern Africa
Habitat: Grassland, Savannah
Diet: Ants, Termites
Social Grouping: Solitary
Reproduction:  Mating season varies throughout the range; 1 young is born after a 7 month gestation period; young are naked with their eyes open at birth, weaned at 2 months, independent at 6 months, and sexually mature at 2 years
Lifespan:  18 Years (Wild), 23 Years (Captivity)
Conservation Status: IUCN Least Concern

  •  Body length 100-160 centimeters, weight 40-82 kilograms; the squared-off head has a very long nose and rabbit-like ears; the tail is thick and tapering tail, the very muscular limbs end in thick-nailed digits
  • Short hair is often worn-off in adults; fur color is tan-brown, with females tending to be lighter than the males
  • Dentition consists of peg-like molars and premolars, no incisors or canines (all teeth are present in embryos)
  • Capture social insects with long sticky tongue, breaking into nest mound with powerful claws.  They seem immune to the chemical defenses of ants and termites, while their tough skin deflects insect bites.  A feeding aardvark may consume 50,000 insects nightly
  • Forage at night, spending days in burrows with multiple entrances and several chambers; these burrows may extend 6 meters underground and be 13 meters long.  An aardvark may have several burrows scattered across its home range
  •  Aardvark burrows provide shelter for a wide variety of other animals, including warthogs, wild dogs, hyenas,  and various birds, reptiles, and small mammals
  • Sometimes persecuted by farmers, who view their holes as inconvenient or dangerous; they are also declining in some areas due to elimination of their food source through pesticides; in some areas it is also hunted for its meat, skin, claws, and teeth (used to make charms or curios)
  • Sometimes called the “ant-bear” or “anteater” (to which it is not closely related), the name "aardvark" is from the Afrikaans/Dutch for “earth pig”
  • Belong to order Tubulidentara, only mammalian order represented by a single living species; the aardvark's closest living relatives are elephants, hyraxes, sirens, elephant shrews, and tenrecs

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