The Aardvark Page

It has an arched back, a tubular snout, and large, upright ears. It uses specialized, chisel-shaped claws to break open the hard clay of termite nests and then uses its sticky tongue to capture the insects. Unlike the anteater, the aardvark has teeth. The female generally gives birth to one offspring. Aardvarks carry their young for about seven months before they are born.

The Aardvark has a superficial resemblance to a long snouted pig. It is up to 2.3 m (7.5 ft) long, including the tail. The skin is thick, sparsely covered by hairs and varies in color from dull brownish gray to dull yellowish gray. The pinnae of the ears are large (150-210 mm) and can fold back to protect the ears while the aardvark is burrowing. The blunt snout has circular nostrils. The tongue is tapered. The dental formula is usually 0/0 0/0 2/2 3/3 for a total of 20 teeth in the adult. The cheek teeth are composed of numerous hexagonal prisms of dentin, which are perpendicular to the occlusal surface. Each prism is pierced by a tubule that is homologous to the pulp cavity, not the Tomes fibres. This unusual dental structure is the origin for the ordinal and familial names. The cranium is long and relatively low and the mandible is straight and blade-like anteriorly.

  are not anteaters 

The principal food items are ants and termites, which are gathered with the long, sticky tongue. Other insects are occasionally taken, and predation on mice has been reported. Aardvarks also eat the fruit of a wild cucumber, known as the aardvark pumpkin, apparently as a source of water.

Aardvarks are excellent diggers and excavate burrows that are typically 2-3 m long, although they may be much more extensive. In soft earth, an aardvark can dig faster than several humans using shovels. Aardvarks are nocturnal and sleep during the day curled in a tight circle in the burrow. They are solitary and may be territorial. Males and females occupy separate burrows. Within its territory, an aardvark uses the same network of paths over an interval of about a week. While foraging, aardvarks cover a strip of ground about 30 m wide in a zig-zag path with the ears directed forward and the snout close to the ground, emitting snuffling sounds while searching for prey. Aardvarks feed by digging into termite or ant mounds with their powerful forelimbs and lapping up the residents with their sticky tongues, which can be thrust 250-300 mm out of the mouth. An unusual behavior of aardvarks is the burying of feces, which they do regularly in shallow excavations 10cm deep. This may be to avoid detection by other aardvarks.

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Last updated September 16, 2003