Aardvarks are the only living member of
the order Tubulidentata and last survivor of
a group of primitive ungulates.
The word aardvark means "earth pig." They have a short neck connected to a
large, almost hairless body with a strongly arched
back. Head and body length is approximately 1.2m and
a tail length of 0.5m. 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.
Aardvarks are endemic to Africa and are found in all regions
south of the Sahara, from dry
savannah to rain forest, where there are sufficient
termites for food, access to water and sandy or clay
Aardvarks feed on ants and termites, and can
consume about 50,000 insects in a night! Using their
strong front limbs, they break into the insects'
nests. They can fold their ears back and they have a
profusion of nasal hairs to keep out the dust while
Although they have poor eyesight, they
have acute hearing, and a good sense of
smell - which helps them to locate their
prey. The ants and termites are lapped up by
the tongue and swallowed whole.
Aardvarks are mostly solitary and nocturnal, but
sometimes will come out during the day to sun
themselves. When aardvarks sleep, they block the
entrance to their burrow, leaving only a very small
opening at the top, and curl into a tight ball.
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.
Aardvarks give birth to a single young after a
gestation period of 7 months. The young
weigh about 2kg at birth. It ventures out of
the burrow at about 2 weeks of age but will
stay with its mother for at least 6 months.