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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Aardvarks. Even the name sounds funny.

Get an aardvark picture fridge magnet.
Aardvarks (Orycteropus afer) can weigh 150-180 lbs, making them about the weight of a Mastiff dog. They get to that size on a protein-rich daily diet of 50,000 ants and termites found in the grasslands of Africa.  An aardvark eats as it digs into an anthill, ignoring the stinging and biting, zipping out its long and sticky tongue to scarf them in, the ants going directly to its muscular gizzard-like belly, with minimal if any chewing.  Yum

Romance & Family Life
Aardvarks team up to mate, then go their separate ways, living mostly solitary lives, though males do have multiple mating partners and cubs stay with their mothers til around 6 months of age.  After a 7-month gestation, a single 4-pound hairless cub is born.  By 2 weeks of age it is able to follow its mother.  After nursing for 3 months, it starts chowing down ants and termites and is ready to mate around age 2. 

In adulthood most of an aardvark's fur is worn away.  Those fun ears and big snout are part of acute hearing and smelling capacities to help them find ants beneath the soil.  They can move their ears separately, or fold them back when tunneling.   (Just checked and some humans can wiggle their ears.  Here's a
how-to if you want to master the skill.)

Grunting, mostly and, when terrified, bleating.

Aardvarks spend their days sleeping and their nights foraging for food in a 3-mile home range.  They are color blind and have poor vision.  Sounds like a possum, giant size.  According to the Bronx zoo they are digging machines.

An aardvark may nap in a shallow hole but it's primary home is a burrow, sometimes complex with a half dozen entrances and sections as deep as 20 feet under ground,  Several aardvarks may share the burrow but not as a family, more like roomers in a boarding house.

In the wild they live 18 years and in captivity up to 23 years.  Their primary predators are tribal hunters, big cats and python snakes .  Aardvarks are not an endangered species so maybe they're not tasty.  Their thick hide may make  them too tough for some predators.  Tribal magicians make charms from their organs, skin and nails that purport to give burglars the ability to pass through walls and roofs. 

Thanks to the Zoology Museum at the  University of Michigan for such great information about aardvarks.

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