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Temporal range: Early Pliocene – Recent
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Tubulidentata
Family: Orycteropodidae
Genus: Orycteropus
O. afer
Binomial name
Orycteropus afer
(Pallas, 1766)

See text

Map of Africa showing a highlighted range (in green) covering most of the continent south of the Sahara desert
Aardvark range

The aardvark (Orycteropus afer) is a mammal from Africa; its name means "earth pig" in the language Afrikaans. It is the only living member in its order, though some fossil genera have been found

Taxonomy[change | change source]

  • Order Tubulidentata
    • Family Orycteropodidae
      • Genus Orycteropus
        • Species Orycteropus afer

The Aardvark looks a bit like the South American anteaters but they are not related. It is in a proposed clade Afroinsectiphilia, with the golden moles and tenrecs. Another proposal is to out it in the Pseudungulata, with the elephants and Sirenia. There is no consensus at present.

Description[change | change source]

Adult aardvarks weighs about 60 kilograms (130 pounds) and a little more than one meter (45 inches) long. It is the largest member of the proposed clade Afroinsectiphilia. The aardvark is pale yellowish-gray in color and often stained reddish-brown by soil. The aardvark's fur is thin. Its hair is short on its head and tail. But, its legs tend to have longer hair.[1]

Distribution and Habitat[change | change source]

Aardvarks are found in sub-Saharan Africa.[2] They are found in every country in sub-Saharan Africa except Namibia, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Madagascar.[3] It lives in many habitats like savannas, grasslands, woodlands and bushland. They have been seen as high as 3,200 metres (10,500 ft) in Ethiopia.[2]

Feeding[change | change source]

Aardvarks eat mostly ants and termites. They have a long sticky tongue which makes it easy to pick up many ants at once. The only fruit that aardvarks eat is the aardvark cucumber.[4] They avoid eating the African driver ant and red ants.[4]

Behaviour[change | change source]

Aardvarks are nocturnal, which means they are awake at night and asleep during the day. The Aardvark is a good swimmer. It can dig a tunnel that is one yard in about five minutes.[4] Aardvarks live for up to 23 years in captivity.[4] It has many predators such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, African wild dogs, hyenas, and pythons.[5][4] Some humans also hunt aardvarks for meat.[5] Aardvarks can dig fast or run in a zigzag to confuse predators. If all else fails they will attack with their claws.[4]

Reproduction[change | change source]

Aardvarks only come together to breed. The gestation period is seven months.[1] They give birth to one cub, which is what a baby aardvark is called. The cub weighs around 1.7–1.9 kilograms (3.7–4.2 lb).[4] It is born during May–July.[5] After 5–6 weeks, hair starts growing on its body. After two weeks, it is able to leave the burrow to follow its mother. After 9 weeks, it is able to eat termites. It is weaned between three months and 16 weeks.[4] At six months, it is able to dig its own burrows, but it will often stay with the mother until the next mating season.[1] It reaches sexual maturity when it is two years old.[4]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Macdonald, David W (1984). The Encyclopedia of mammals. Facts on File. ISBN 978-0-87196-871-5. OCLC 10403800. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 African Wildlife Foundation. "This insect-eater belongs to the same group of mammals as the elephant". African Wildlife Foundation. African Wildlife Foundation. Archived from the original on 22 September 2020. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  3. Taylor, Andrew; Lehmann, Thomas (21 January 2014). "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Orycteropus afer". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. Archived from the original on 30 September 2020. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 Grzimek, Bernhard (1990). Grzimek's encyclopedia of mammals. McGraw-Hill Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-07-909508-4. OCLC 20014856. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Collier's encyclopedia. 24 vols. Collier's. 1 November 1997. ISBN 978-1-57161-093-5. OCLC 656144659. Retrieved 21 September 2020.