Aardvark

Common Name:
Aardvark
Scientific Name:
Orycteropus afer
Type:
Mammals
Diet:
Insectivore
Average Life Span In Captivity:
23 years
Size:
Head and body: 43 to 53 inches; tail: 21 to 26 inches
Weight:
110 to 180 pounds
IUCN Red List Status:
Least concern
Current Population Trend:
Unknown

Aardvarks live throughout Africa, south of the Sahara. Their name comes from South Africa's Afrikaans language and means “earth pig.” A glimpse of the aardvark's body and long snout brings the pig to mind. On closer inspection, the aardvark appears to include other animal features as well. It boasts rabbitlike ears and a kangaroo tail—yet the aardvark is related to none of these animals.

Burrow Digging and Diet

Aardvarks are nocturnal. They spend the hot African afternoon holed up in cool underground burrows dug with their powerful feet and claws that resemble small spades. After sunset, aardvarks put those claws to good use in acquiring their favorite food—termites.

While foraging in grasslands and forests aardvarks, also called “antbears,” may travel several miles a night in search of large, earthen termite mounds. A hungry aardvark digs through the hard shell of a promising mound with its front claws and uses its long, sticky, wormlike tongue to feast on the insects within. It can close its nostrils to keep dust and insects from invading its snout, and its thick skin protects it from bites. It uses a similar technique to raid underground ant nests.

Female aardvarks typically give birth to one newborn each year. The young remain with their mother for about six months before moving out and digging their own burrows, which can be extensive dwellings with many different openings.

This photo was submitted to Your Shot, our photo community on Instagram. Follow us on Instagram at @natgeoyourshot or visit us at natgeo.com/yourshot for the latest submissions and news about the community.
This photo was submitted to Your Shot, our photo community on Instagram. Follow us on Instagram at @natgeoyourshot or visit us at natgeo.com/yourshot for the latest submissions and news about the community.
Photograph by Thomas Retterath, National Geographic Your Shot

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