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Published on June 17th, 2010 | by Yellow Magpie

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Aardvarks: Supreme Hunters And Nature’s Digging Machines

Aardvarks are strange in appearance. Their faces have one of the most peculiar shapes found in the animal kingdom.

Culturally, we pay them no heed and prefer to focus our attentions on either exotic or domestic animals. Because of this the aardvark rarely gets a look in. Yet, it is a remarkable animal in many different ways.


Ardvark


One-Of-A-Kind

Aardvarks have an animal order devoted specially to themselves, Tublidentata (‘tube-toothed’). They are the only mammal species that do so. This is because they have no close relatives whatsoever.

Aardvarks are often confused with anteaters despite the fact that they come from completely different continents. Indeed, they come from completely different land masses.


Nocturnal Hunters

Aardvarks spend their days safely inside their burrows. They only venture outside under the cover of darkness. Once exposed to the night air, the hunt is on to locate food.

Aardvarks can travel up to 50 kilometres (30 miles) in their pursuit of prey and they are guided primarily by their incredibly sensitive nose and highly attuned ears.

Their ears are so sensitive, the aardvark can detect insects scurrying along underground passages. Once they have pinpointed a potential meal, their enormously powerful claws are set to work. Highly efficient diggers, one aardvark can out-dig several men with shovels.

Once they have obtained access to their food they use their long tongues to scoop out insects.

Termite And Ant Diet

The aardvark diet is composed mostly of ants and termites. They are not carnivores as they eat a fruit called the ‘aardvark cucumber’ which is a vital source of water in times of drought. Because of this they are omnivorous, like humans.

The aardvark’s extremely sticky tongue, which can be over 30 cm (one foot) in length, is perfect for catching termites and ants. Once they have located their prey they can eat hundreds of thousands of termites in a single night.

Aardvarks Photo By Scotto Bear

Strange Teeth

The teeth of an aardvark is different from other animals. They contain absolutely no enamel. Instead, aardvarks teeth are made of dentine which is bonded by cementum.

Oddly, their teeth are more akin to tubes and it is for this reason that they are classified as ‘tube-toothed’. While humans have 32 teeth, aardvarks have 20 tubular pegs located at the back of their mouths.

As there is no enamel-coating, the teeth are constantly in a flux between wear and regrowth.


Importance To People

The aardvark is very important to people and they are hunted for their meat. The word ‘aardvark’ is Afrikaans for ‘earth pig’. It therefore comes as no surprise to learn that they are said to taste like pork.

As well as being a valuable source of food, aardvarks are used to make leather from their hide-skins.

Interestingly, their Latin name, Orycteropus afer, means ‘African digger-foot’. This is because it is thought that the animal had supernatural powers and close ties with the underworld.

A Singular Will To Live

Aardvarks are unique animals. With a one-of-a-kind appearance they are difficult to define and categorise. They are supreme diggers and brilliant hunters.

Aardvarks

Aardvarks have being around for millions of years. Their survival instincts are given reinforcement by the fact that, despite their close relatives perishing, they have thrived. This unusual and hardy animal will no doubt survive for some time yet.

Vital Statistics

  • Aardvarks can grow to over 2 metres (six and a half feet) in length.
  • They can weigh up to 70 kg ( 154 lbs).
  • Aardvarks can live to be over 20 years old.
  • They are found only in Africa.

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