Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Arthur the Aardvark

Almost everybody has heard of Arthur Read from the popular PBS show "Arthur."  What a lot of people don't realize is that Arthur is an aardvark.  And even more people don't usually even know what an aardvark is.

A fossorial (burrowing, like terrestrial or marine), nocturnal mammal from Africa, the aardvark is an insectivore, its favorite food being termites, and is labeled as "Least Concern" by the IUCN.  The aardvark, as you can see below, inhabits an incredibly large portion of Africa, including South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burundi, Somalia, Angola, and many others.

The aardvark has several important adaptations for its burrowing, insectivorous life style.  Perhaps the most important are the large claws on its front limbs.  These claws enable the aardvark to not only dig out immense burrows for habitation use, but also to dig into termite mounds to extract a meal.  Interestingly, when the aardvark leaves its burrow to dig a new one, the old burrow is often taken up by the African wild dog, where the pups shelter until they are old enough to leave the protection of the burrow.

The aardvark also has thick skin, which keep the termites from biting it, allowing it to feast in relative peace.  A further adaptation to keep insects (as well as dust) out is in its nose: it can close its nose, preventing both bugs and dust from invading its breathing passages.  Finally, another very important insectivorous adaptation is the tongue of the aardvark.  The long, sticky tongue of the aardvark is usually about 12 inches long, equivalent to about one-sixth the length of the animal!  Long, sticky tongues are a fairly common adaptation for termite-eaters such as the numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus), pangolins (Manis sp.), and the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) among them.
A southern tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla) shows off its extraordinarily long tongue during an animal demonstration at one of Denver Zoo's teen career days.  Tamanduas are also insectivorous, and clearly also possess an amazing tongue.


  1. I hate aardvarks! One killed my dog! What good have they ever done anyone? SCREW YOU! DOWN WITH ALL THE AARDVARKS.

    1. That's strange, I've never heard of an aardvark killing a dog! Where do you live, and how did it happen?

  2. Why would an aardvark kill a dog?! It eats insects. Maybe your dog attacked it and it was just defending its self. Or maybe you should just stop trolling around and stop causing problems.


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