Aardvark Classification and Evolution
Aardvarks are little pig-like mammals that are found inhabiting a wide assortment of different habitats during Africa, south of the Sahara. They are largely solitary and spend their days sleeping in subterranean burrows to protect them in the heat of the African sun, emerging in the warmer evening to hunt for food. Aardvarks are exceptional among creatures since they are the sole surviving species within their creature household . Until recently it was widely considered that they were most closely related to other insectivores like armadillos and pangolins but this isn’t the case with their closest living relatives really thought to be elephants.
Aardvark Anatomy and Appearance
Aardvarks have a exceptional look amongst mammals (and really all creatures ) as they display physical aspects of a number of different creature species. They have medium-sized, almost bald bodies and long snouts which make them look distinctly pig-like initially, with thick epidermis that protects them from the warm sun and also from being harmed by insect bites. They can close their nostrils to stop dust and insects from entering their nose. They have tubular, rabbit-like ears that may stand on end but can also be folded flat to prevent dirt from entering them whenever they’re underground. Aardvarks have strong, claws on each of their spade-like feet that along with the fact that their hind legs are longer than their front legs, makes them strong and competent diggers able to excavate vast sums of ground at an alarming speed. On account of the fact that they spend most of their lives underground or out searching in the dark during the night, they have bad vision but are able to easily navigate their surrounding using their excellent sense of smell to both locate prey and to sense possible danger.
Aardvark Distribution and Habitat
Aardvarks are found in a vast array of distinct habitats throughout sub-Saharan Africa from dry deserts into the moist rainforest areas. The only stipulation (besides having great access to lots of food and water) would be to have good soil in which they may dig their extensive burrows. Despite being highly skilled at digging in sandy or clay soil types, rockier regions prove more of a challenge to produce their underground houses so the aardvark will proceed to another area where soil conditions are far better suited to digging. Their burrows could be up to 10 meters (33 feet ) long in a house range that can be anywhere from 2 to 5 kilometres squarefeet. Their burrows often having multiple entries and therefore are always left mind first so that they are able to identify possible predators readily using their keen sense of smell.
Aardvark Behaviour and Lifestyle
Aardvarks are primarily solitary creatures which come together only to mate and are not found in big groups. Aardvarks are nocturnal mammals, only leaving the protection of the burrow below the cover of night once they move in search of food and water, frequently travelling a few miles in order to come up with the biggest termite mounds guided by their excellent hearing and sense of smell. Despite often having a large burrow comprised of an extensive network of tunnels, aardvarks are known to be able to swiftly excavate small temporary burrows where they can shield themselves quickly rather than having to return to their first residence.
Aardvark Reproduction and Life Cycles
Aardvarks have specific breeding seasons that occur every year. Depending upon the region in which the aardvark lives young can be born in October to November, or May to June in different areas. Known to have infants many years, female aardvarks give birth to one offspring following a gestation period that usually lasts for about 7 months. Newborn aardvarks often weigh as little as 2kg and are born with bald, pink skin at the safety of the mother’s burrow. Baby aardvarks spend the first two weeks of their lives in the safety of the subterranean burrow before beginning to venture outside with their mother under the cover of night. However, despite accompanying their mother seeking food they are not weaned until they’re around three weeks old. Young aardvarks reside with their mom in her burrow until they are around six months old when they move outside to dig a burrow in the own. Although their lifespan from the wild is not entirely clear, aardvarks tend to live for at least 20 years in captivity.
Aardvark Diet and Prey
The diet of aardvarks is mainly comprised of rodents and termites, together with termites being their favorite food supply. Despite this though, they are proven to also consume other insects like beetles and insect larvae. Aardvarks are developed to function as insectivores, with strong limbs and claws that are effective at breaking into the tougher outer shell of termite mounds very effectively. Once they’ve broken to the mound then they use their long, sticky tongue to harvest the insects indoors and eat them whole without chewing as they’re then ground down in their muscular stomachs. Among the aardvarks very distinctive attributes is the fact that they have columnar cheek-teeth that serve no practical purpose at all. With some larger ant species that need to be chewed they use the incisors which are located towards the back of their mouths. Aardvarks are also able to utilize the same methods to split subterranean ant nests.
Aardvark Predators and Threats
Despite the fact that aardvarks are nocturnal animals that reside in the safety of underground burrows, they’re threatened with a number of different predators during their natural environment. Lions, leopards, hyenas and large snakes (most especially pythons) are the primary predators of aardvarks however that does vary depending on where the aardvark lives. Their main form of defence would be to escape quite quickly underground however, they’re also known to be very aggressive when jeopardized by those larger creatures . Aardvarks utilize their strong, sharp claws to try and injure their attacker along with kicking the threatening animal with their strong back legs. Aardvarks are also threatened by humans who hunt them and ruin their natural habitats.
Aardvark Interesting Facts and Features
Their worm-like tongues can actually grow up to 30 cm in length meaning they can reach more termites farther to the mound. The love of insects has really led aardvarks also known as Antbears! Interestingly , aardvarks are also thought to get virtually all of the moisture they need from their prey meaning they really have to physically drink very little water. Aardvarks are believed to be among the planet’s most prolific diggers with their powerful claws and limbs and shovel-like feet enabling them to be able to change 2ft of dirt in just 15 minutes!
Aardvark Relationship with Humans
Due to how they spend the daylight hours concealed in the safety of the underground burrows, just emerging under the cover of night to hunt for food, aardvarks are extremely seldom seen by many people. In some regions however , they are searched by people for food and are getting to be increasingly influenced by enlarging individual populations as more of their normal habitats disappear to make way for growing settlements.
Aardvark Conservation Status and Life Today
Today, aardvarks are recorded by the IUCN as a species that is of Least Concern. Despite the fact that population numbers of aardvarks most surely declined in certain countries, in others, their numbers remain stable and they’re often commonly located in both protected areas and areas with appropriate habitats. They are however becoming increasingly influenced by habitat reduction in both the form of deforestation and expanding towns and villages. Due to their incredibly elusive nature, exact population sizes are not entirely understood.
Scientific Name: Orycteropus afer
Common Name: Aardvark
Other Name(s): Antbear, Earth Pig
Number Of Species: 18
Location: Sub-Saharan Africa
Habitat: Sandy and clay soil
Colour: Brown, grey, yellow
Skin Type: Hair
Size (L): 1.05m – 2.20m (3.4ft – 7.3ft)
Weight: 60kg – 80kg (130lbs – 180lbs)
Top Speed: 40kph (25mph)
Prey: Termites, Ants
Predators: Lions, Leopards, Hyenas
Group Behaviour: Solitary
Lifespan: 23 years
Age Of Sexual Maturity: 2 years
Gestation Period: 7 months
Average Litter Size: 1
Name Of Young: Cub
Age Of Weaning: 3 months
Conservation Status: Least Concern
Estimated Population Size: Unknown
Biggest Threat: Habitat loss
Most Distinctive Feature: Long, sticky tongue and rabbit-like ears
Fun Fact: Can move up to 2ft of soil in just 15 seconds!