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    Aardvark (Orycteropus afer)

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    Aardvark (Orycteropus afer)

    Post by sesrocker on April 26th 2009, 23:12



    Scientific Name: Orycteropus afer
    Size: 24 inches at the shoulder
    Weight: 88 to 143 pounds
    Lifespan: 23 years in captivity
    Habitat: Dry savanna to rain forest
    Diet: Omnivorous
    Gestation: 7 months
    Predators: Humans, lions, hyenas, leopards, pythons


    Physical Characteristics
    The aardvark has a short neck connected to a massive, almost hairless body with a strongly arched back. The legs are short, the hind legs longer than the front ones. The head is elongated, with a long, narrow snout and nostrils that can be sealed. The long, tubular ears are normally held upright but can be folded and closed. The short but muscular tail is cone-shaped and tapers to a point. The thick claws on the forefeet are well adapted for digging.

    Habitat
    Aardvarks are found in all regions, from dry savanna to rain forest, where there are sufficient termites for food, access to water and sandy or clay soil. If the soil is too hard, aardvarks, despite being speedy, powerful diggers, will move to areas where the digging is easier.

    Behavior
    Aardvarks are mostly solitary and nocturnal, but sometimes will come out during the day to sun themselves. When pursued, an aardvark will furiously dig itself a hole, and when attacked, may roll onto its back and defend itself with its large claws or use its thick tail to somersault away from its attackers.

    As it is nocturnal and has poor eyesight, the aardvark is cautious upon leaving its burrow. It comes to the entrance and stands there motionless for several minutes. Then it suddenly leaps out in powerful jumps. At about 30 feet out it stops, raises up on its legs, perks up its ears and turns its head in all directions. If there are no sounds, it makes a few more leaps and finally moves at a slow trot to look for food.

    Reproduction
    Aardvarks give birth to one offspring at a time. The pinkish, hairless newborn stays inside the burrow for about 2 weeks and then begins to follow its mother in her search for food. The young first eats solid food at 3 months of age and is suckled until 4 months.

    At about 6 months a young male becomes independent and goes off on its own, while a young female stays with the mother until after the next baby is born.

    Diet
    Aardvarks are specialized for eating termites. They move from one termite mound to another, dismantling the hills with their powerful claws. Insects are trapped by the aardvark's long protractile tongue (as long as 30 cm), which is covered with a thick, sticky saliva. Sometimes the aardvark will press its snout against an opening in a mound and suck up the termites.

    Predators and Threats
    The adult aardvark's principal enemies are humans, lions, hyenas and leopards; pythons can also take the young.

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