The Aardvark Page
- is not an anteater
- is the only animal in the order Tubulidentata
- is found throughout much of Africa
- is primarily nocturnal
- lives in burrows
mainly on ants and termites
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
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
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.
Last updated September 16, 2003