The Elusive Erdvark – Aardvark – Anteater

Special Offer

The #1 Animal on my wish to see in nature list

The aardvark's unique appearance and behavior adds to the human wonder of nature”

They are very secretive animals so very little is known about their way of life.

Typically the aardvark is actually a medium-sized, burrowing, night time mammal native to Africa. Unlike other insectivores, it has a new long pig-like snout, which is used to sniff out foods.

A nocturnal feeder (nite time feeder), it feeds on ants and termites, which it will dig out of their hills using its sharp claws and powerful legs. It also digs to create burrows in which to live and rear its young.

The name "aardvark" is Afrikaans (Afrikaans pronunciation: [ˈɑːrtfark]), originates from earlier Afrikaans (erdvark) and means "earth pig" or "ground pig" (aarde: earth/ground, vark: pig), due to the fact of its burrowing.

The Elusive Erdvark – Aardvark – Anteater
elephant shrew- wikipedia

The aardvark is not closely related to the pig neither to the South American anteater, despite sharing some characteristics and a superficial resemblance. The closest living relatives of the aardvark are the elephant shrews, tenrecs, and golden moles.

Typically the aardvark is vaguely pig-like in physical appearance. Its body is usually stout using a plainly arched back and is also sparsely covered with rough hairs.

The limbs are of moderate length, with the rear legs being longer than the forelegs. The front feet have lost the thumb, resulting in four toes, while the rear feet have all five toes.

Each toe bears a large, robust nail which is somewhat flattened and shovel-like and appears to be intermediate between a claw and a hoof.

An aardvark weighs between 60 and 80 kilograms with a length between 105 and 130 centimeters and can reach lengths of 2. 2 meters with its tail (which can be up to 70 centimeters).

It is 60 centimeters tall at the shoulder the aardvark is pale yellowish-gray in color and often stained reddish-brown by soil.

The aardvark's coat is thin, and the animal's primary protection is its tough skin. Its hair is short on its head and tail; however, its legs tend to have longer hair. The hair on the majority of its body is grouped in clusters of 3-4 hairs, the hair surrounding its nostrils is dense to help filter particulate matter out as it digs. Its tail is very thick at the base and progressively taps.

Oh my goodness these creatures are so amazing I am afraid I could never do it righteous in writing its entire unique characteristic here. For more information click this link.

The Elusive Erdvark – Aardvark – Anteater

How does Aardvark look like

  • Head – The greatly elongated head is set on a short, thick neck, and the end of the snout bears a disc, which houses the nostrils.  It contains a thin but complete arch. The head of the aardvark contains many unique and different features; one of the most distinctive characteristics is their teeth.
  • Teeth – The teeth have no enamel coating and are worn away and regrow continuously. The aardvark is born with conventional incisors and canines at the front of the jaw, which falls out and is not replaced. These remaining teeth are peg-like and rootless and are of unique composition. The teeth consist of 14 upper and 12 lower jaw molars.
  • Nostril – The nasal area of the aardvark is another unique area, as it contains ten nasal conchae, more than any other placental mammal. The sides of the nostrils are thick with hair.  The aardvark has a long, thin, snakelike, protruding tongue as much as 30 centimeters long and elaborate structures supporting a keen sense of smell. Its keen sense of smell is not just from the number of bulbs in the nose but also in the development of the brain, as its olfactory lobe is very developed.
  • Ears – The ears, which are very effective, are disproportionately long, about 20–25 centimeters long.
  • Eyes –  The eyes are small for its head and consist only of rods.

Digestive system

The aardvark’s stomach has a muscular pyloric area that acts as a gizzard to grind swallowed food up, thereby rendering chewing unnecessary. Its cecum is large.

Both sexes emit a strong-smelling secretion from an anal gland.

Its salivary glands are highly developed and almost completely ring the neck their output is what causes the tongue to maintain its tackiness.

The female has two pairs of teats in the inguinal region.

Habitat

They spend the daylight hours in dark burrows to avoid the heat of the day.

Its keen hearing warns it of predators: lionsleopards, cheetahs, African wild dogshyenas, and pythons

Some humans also hunt aardvarks for meat.

Aardvarks can dig fast or run in zigzag fashion to elude enemies, but if all else fails, they will strike with their claws, tail and shoulders, sometimes flipping onto their backs lying motionless except to lash out with all four feet.[25]

They are capable of causing substantial damage to unprotected areas of an attacker.[11]

They will also dig to escape as they can, when pressed, dig extremely quickly.[25]

 

Feeding [edit]

The aardvark is nocturnal and is a solitary creature that feeds almost exclusively on ants and termites (myrmecophagy); [5]

The only fruit eaten by aardvarks is the aardvark cucumber Another reason that aardvarks are important to their habitat is because a plant known as the aardvark cucumber relies on the long nosed mammal to spread it's seeds.  The fruit grows underground and is a treat for any aardvark, but being underground it's very hard to spread it's seeds and germinate.  Aardvarks help the plant to survive and flourish by eating the fruit and spreading their seeds in their dung.

The time spent in the intestine of the aardvark helps the fertility of the seed, and the fruit provides needed moisture for the aardvark.[11] [25]

They avoid eating the African driver ant and red ants.[30] Due to their stringent diet requirements, they require a large range to survive.[29]

An aardvark emerges from its burrow in the late afternoon or shortly after sunset, and forages over a considerable home range encompassing 10 to 30 kilometers (6.2 to 18.6 mi).

While foraging for food, the aardvark will keep its nose to the ground and its ears pointed forward, which indicates that both smell and hearing are involved in the search for food. They zig-zag as they forage and will usually not repeat a route for 5–8 days as they appear to allow time for the termite nests to recover before feeding on it again.[30]

During a foraging period, they will stop and dig a "V" shaped trench with their forefeet and then sniff it profusely as a means to explore their location.[5]

When a concentration of ants or termites is detected, the aardvark digs into it with its powerful front legs, keeping its long ears upright to listen for predators, and takes up an astonishing number of insects with its long, sticky tongue—as many as 50,000 in one night have been recorded.

Its claws enable it to dig through the extremely hard crust of a termite or ant mound quickly. It avoids inhaling the dust by sealing the nostrils.[28]

When successful, the aardvark's long (up to 30 centimeters (12 in)) [2] tongue licks up the insects; the termites' biting, or the ants' stinging attacks are rendered futile by the tough skin

. After an aardvark visit at a termite mound, other animals will visit to pick up all the leftovers.[31] Termite mounds alone don't provide enough food for the aardvark, so they look for termites that are on the move.

When these insects move, they can form columns 10–40 meters (33–131 ft.) long and these tend to provide easy pickings with little effort exerted by the aardvark. These columns are more common in areas of livestock or other hoofed animals.[31]

The trampled grass and dung attract termites from the OdontotermesMicrotermes, and Pseudacanthotermes genera.[31]

On a nightly basis they tend to be more active during the first portion of the night time (20:00–00:00); however, they don't seem to prefer bright or dark nights over the other.

During adverse weather or if disturbed they will retreat to their burrow systems. They cover between 2 and 5 kilometers (1.2 and 3.1 mi) per night; however, some studies have shown that they may traverse as far as 30 kilometers (19 mi) in a night.[5]

Vocalization[edit]

The aardvark is a rather quiet animal.

However, it does make soft grunting sounds as it forages and loud grunts as it makes for its tunnel entrance.[29]

It makes a bleating sound if frightened.[30]

When it is threatened it will make for one of its burrows.

If one is not close it will dig a new one rapidly. This new one will be short and require the aardvark to back out when the coast is clear

 

Movement [edit]

The aardvark is known to be a good swimmer and has been witnessed successfully swimming in strong currents.[30]

It can dig a yard of tunnel in about five minutes, [29] but otherwise moves fairly slowly.

When leaving the burrow at night, they pause at the entrance for about ten minutes, sniffing and listening. After this period of watchfulness, it will bound out and within seconds it will be 10 meters (33 ft.) away. It will then pauses prick its ears, twisting its head to listen, then jump and move off to start foraging.[29]

Aside from digging out ants and termites, the aardvark also excavates burrows in which to live; of which they generally fall into three categories: burrows made while foraging, refuge and resting location, and permanent homes.[5]

Temporary sites are scattered around the home range and are used as refuges, while the main burrow is also used for breeding. Main burrows can be deep and extensive, have several entrances and can be as long as 13 meters (43 ft.).[5]

These burrows can be large enough for a man to enter.[6] The aardvark changes the layout of its home burrow regularly, and periodically moves on and makes a new one.

The old burrows are an important part of the African wildlife scene.

As they are vacated, then they are inhabited by smaller animals like the

Without these refuges many animals would die during wildfire season.[30]

Only mothers and young share burrows; however, the aardvark is known to live in small family groups or as a solitary creature.[6]

If attacked in the tunnel, it will escape by digging out of the tunnel thereby placing the fresh fill between it and its predator, or if it decides to fight it will roll onto its back, and attack with its claws.[6]

The aardvark has been known to sleep in a recently excavated ant nest, which also serves as protection from its predators.[32]

Reproduction [edit]

Aardvark mother and young

  • Aardvarks pair only during the breeding season; after a gestationperiod of seven months,[5]
  • One cub weighing around 1.7–1.9 kilograms (3.7–4.2 lb.)[16]Is born during May–July.[6]
  • When born, the young has flaccid ears and many wrinkles.
  • When nursing, it will nurse off each teat in succession.[25]
  • After two weeks, the folds of skin disappear and after three, the ears can be held upright.[25]
  • After 5–6 weeks, body hair starts growing.[25]
  • It is able to leave the burrow to accompany its mother after only two weeks and eats termites at 9 weeks,[25]
  • And is weaned between three months [16]and 16 weeks.[5]
  • At six months of age, it is able to dig its own burrows, but it will often remain with the mother until the next mating season,[5]and is
  • Sexually mature from approximately two years of age.[1

Aardvarks in culture

The Egyptian god Set, god of desserts, storms and chaos, is thought to have the head of an aardvark.  What do you think?

 

 

I have found this video that also provides a visual picture of this creature.

Let me know in the comments below if you have seen the aardvark in nature.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top

Subscribe to my Newsletter

* indicates required