Aardvark

Aardvark.


Name

Aardvark [Orycteropus afer]

Appearance

They have a body length of 110 cm and a shoulder height of 60 cm, and the tail is 60-70 cm long. The skin is pinkish-gray or grayish-brown with coarse, yellowish hair. The hide is very thick in order to protect it from insects. The small, stocky body of the Aardvark has a high arch in its back.

The powerful legs are covered with dark fur and the forefeet have four digits and the hind feet have five digits, and all are equipped with long claw-like nails. The thick claws on the forefeet are used as digging tools. The aardvark also uses its claws to walk on. The head is long and slender and ends with a tubular, pig-like snout, which is covered in white hairs that are 25-50 mm. The ears are large, and they taper to a point at the tips.

The tail is muscular and also tapers at the end. The most unique feature of the Aardvark is its teeth, which are fewer than other mammals and in adults are only found in the back of the jaw. The teeth are not attached to the jaw and grow continuously throughout the Aardvark's lifetime. Also they do not grow simultaneously. The teeth are columnar in shape, and have no roots. The teeth are not covered in enamel like other mammals but instead are covered with a layer of cement.

Diet

The diet of the Aardvark consists of termites and other insects. They feed at night and follow a  pathway among the termite nests. They feed by sweeping the ground with their noses and walking in a zigzag fashion. They travel up to as far as 16km in search of food a night. They eat by taking apart termite hills with their powerful claws. With its protractile tongue (300 mm), which is covered with thick, sticky saliva it traps the insects and then digests them. They also favour melons. As a consequence of this specialised diet the cheek teeth are reduced to flat-crowned, peg-like structures adapted to crush the hard outer shells of insects.

Breeding

There is no mating season for the aardvark. Gestation lasts for 7 months and 1 offspring is produced. The young aardvark is born pink and hairless. They remain in the burrow for about two weeks before they accompany their mother outside. The young begin to eat solids at 3 months of age and are weaned in 7 months. They reach sexual maturity at around 2 years of age.

Behaviour

The solitary Aardvark is primarily nocturnal, though they occasionally sun themselves at the mouth of its burrow. During the day, they sleep curled up in a tight ball. They are diggers who burrow, the forefeet are used as excavating tools, which loosen and push back the dirt while the hind feet push the dirt backwards and to the sides. The Aardvark creates a burrow for several reasons, to find food, shelter, and to provide a safe place in which to rear the young. The burrows are up to 13 m long and have several different chambers and several entrances, and once abandoned they are often used by other animals such as Warthogs and Jackals. Aardvarks have excellent hearing but poor eyesight. Surprisingly enough the Aardvark is a good swimmer. When frightened the Aardvark grunts and bleats.

Where they are found

The Aardvark is found in sub-Saharan Africa in Savanna, grasslands, and open forests where the ground is soft and sufficient food and water is found. They are not found in very dry and rocky places such as deserts. Aardvarks also tend to avoid forests.



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