What is Aardvark Meaning?

Let us discuss the aardvark meaning, aardvark is a burrowing, nocturnal, medium-sized mammal native to Africa. Aardvark, an African animal, may be referred to as an ant bear. The giant anteater is a South American mammal. Although numerous prehistoric Tubulidentata species and genera are known, it is the only surviving species of the order Tubulidentata. 


It has a long pig-like snout that it uses to smell out food, unlike most other insectivores. It travels throughout the majority of the African continent's southern two-thirds, avoiding rocky sections. It is a nocturnal feeder that feeds on ants and termites that digs out of their nests using its sharp claws and muscular legs. It also excavates to make burrows in which to live and raise its young. The IUCN has given it a "least concern" grade, despite the fact that its numbers appear to be declining.

Aardvark Taxonomy

The aardvark animal is the only existing representative of the cryptic mammalian order Tubulidentata, in which it is usually believed to compose one changeable species of the genus Orycteropus, the family Orycteropodidae's single surviving genus. Despite some similarities and a superficial appearance, the aardvark is not closely related to the South American anteater. Convergent evolution is responsible for the similarities. 


Elephant shrews, tenrecs, and golden moles are the aardvark's closest surviving relatives. These animals belong to the superorder Afrotheria, which includes sirenians, hyraxes, elephants, and their extinct relatives. The brains of Condylarthra have been studied, and given the clade's status as a wastebasket taxon, it's possible that certain species previously classed as "condylarths" are actually stem-aardvarks.

Evolution of Aardvark

Bryan Patterson has established that early aardvark cousins first appeared in Africa at the end of the Paleocene, based on fossils. The ptolemaidas, a strange mammalian group with ambiguous connections, could be stem-aardvarks, either as a sister group to Tubulidentata or as a grade leading to true tubulidentata.


Myorycteropus africanus, a tubulidentata from Kenyan Miocene strata, was most likely the first unequivocal tubulidentata. Orycteropus mauritanicus, the earliest member of the genus Orycteropus, was discovered in middle Miocene sediments in Algeria, with an equally old form discovered in Kenya. Aardvark fossils have been discovered throughout Europe and the Near East, dating back 5 million years.


Originally, the strange Pleistocene Plesiorycteropus from Madagascar was supposed to be a tubulidentata descended from Eocene forebears who arrived on the island during the Eocene. Plesiorycteropus is now thought to be a relative of golden moles and tenrecs that evolved an aardvark-like appearance and ecological niche through convergent evolution, according to a number of small anatomical differences and current molecular findings.

Description about Aardvark’s Body

The aardvark animal resembles a pig in appearance. It has a robust body with a conspicuously arched back and coarse hairs sparsely covering it. The limbs are rather lengthy, with the back legs being longer than the front legs. The pollex (or 'thumb') has been removed from the front feet, leaving just four toes, whilst the back feet have all five toes. Each toe has a broad, powerful nail that is flattened and shovel-like, and looks like a cross between a claw and a hoof. While the aardvark is classified as digitigrade, it does appear to be plantigrade at times. 


This is due to the fact that when it squats, it stands on its soles. Aardvarks have an endosteal substance termed compacted coarse cancellous bone that contributes to their tunnel digging skills (CCCB). CCCB's stress and strain tolerance help aardvarks to dig their burrows, resulting in a beneficial environment for plants and a variety of animals.


The average aardvark weighs between 60 and 80 kilos (130–180 lb). The length of an aardvark is normally between 105 and 130 centimetres, but it can grow to be as long as 2.2 metres (7 ft 3 in) when its tail (which can be up to 70 centimetres (28 in)) is factored in. At the shoulder, it stands 60 centimetres (24 in) tall and has a girth of roughly 100 centimetres (3.3 ft). It is the largest member of the Afroinsectiphilia lineage. 


The aardvark is a pale yellowish-grey animal with a reddish-brown coat discoloured by mud. The aardvark's coat is thin, and the animal's strong skin serves as its primary defence. The hair on its head and tail is short, but the hair on its legs is longer. The majority of its body hair is arranged in clusters of three to four hairs. The thick hair around its nostrils helps it filter out particulate materials while it digs. Its tail is thick at the beginning and eventually thins out.

Head of Aardvark

The elongated head is supported by a short, thick neck, and the nose ends in a disc that houses the nostrils. It has a zygomatic arch that is narrow but complete. The aardvark's head has a number of distinct characteristics. The teeth of the Tubulidentata are one of their most distinguishing features. Each tooth comprises a cluster of thin, hexagonal, upright, parallel tubes of vasodentin (a modified form of dentine) with individual pulp canals, bound together by cementum, rather than a pulp cavity. 


The number of columns in a tooth is determined by its size, with the largest having over 1,500. The teeth have no enamel layer and are constantly worn away and regenerated. At the front of the jaw, the aardvark is born with conventional incisors and canines, which fall out and are not replaced. Adult aardvarks have only cheek teeth at the back of their jaws, and their dental formula is as follows: 

0/0 0/0 2-3/2 3/3 = 20-22

These remaining teeth have a peculiar makeup and are peg-like and rootless. There are 14 upper and 12 lower jaw molars in total. The aardvark's nasal area is also unique in that it has ten nasal conchae, more than any other placental animal.


The hair on the sides of the nostrils is dense. Modified mimetic muscles move the tip of the snout, which is very movable. The fleshy dividing tissue between its nostrils most likely serves sensory capabilities, however, it's unclear whether they're olfactory or vibratory. 


Its nose has more turbinate bones than any other animal, ranging from 9 to 11, compared to 4 to 5 in dogs. The aardvark has more space for the moist epithelium, which is where the olfactory bulb is located because it contains a significant number of turbinate bones. The nose of a mammal has nine olfactory bulbs, the most of any mammal. Its acute sense of smell is due not only to a large number of bulbs in its nose but also to the brain's development, as its olfactory lobe is well developed. The snout is elongated and resembles that of a pig. 


The mouth is tiny and tubular, as is typical of ant and termite eaters. The aardvark has a long, thin, snake-like tongue that protrudes up to 30 centimetres (12 in) and intricate structures that support a high sense of smell. The ears are excessively long, measuring about 20–25 cm (7.9–9.8 in) in length. The eyes are small for the size of its head and are made up entirely of rods.

Digestive System

The stomach of an aardvark possesses a muscular pyloric region that works as a gizzard, grinding up swallowed food and eliminating the need to chew. It has a big cecum. An anal gland in both sexes produces a strong-smelling fluid. The tongue's salivary glands are extremely developed and almost fully encircle the neck; their production is what keeps the tongue tacky. In the inguinal region, the female possesses two pairs of teats.


The aardvark is a living fossil in terms of genetics, as its chromosomes are well preserved, representing much of the early eutherian organisation before the major contemporary groups diverged.

Habitat

Aardvarks may be found in Sub-Saharan Africa, where they can find adequate habitat (such as savannas, grasslands, forests, and bushland) as well as food (such as ants and termites). To avoid the heat of the day, they spend the daylight hours in dark tunnels. The only major environment where they are not found is swamp forest, where excavating to a sufficient depth is impossible due to the high water table. 


They also stay away from the ground that is too rough to dig through. In Ethiopia, they have been seen as high as 3,200 metres (10,500 feet). With a few exceptions, they are found throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, all the way to South Africa. Namibia's, Ivory Coast's, and Ghana's coastal areas are among the exceptions. Madagascar is devoid of them.

Ecology

Let us discuss about aardvark ecology. In captivity, aardvarks can live up to 23 years. Predators including lions, leopards, cheetahs, African wild dogs, hyenas, and pythons are detected by their acute hearing. Aardvarks are also hunted for meat by some humans. To evade enemies, aardvarks can dig quickly or run in a zigzag pattern, but if all else fails, they will strike with their claws, tail, and shoulders, occasionally flipping onto their backs and lying motionless except to lash out with all four feet. They are capable of causing significant damage to an attacker's vulnerable parts. They will also dig to escape because they can dig quite swiftly when pressured.

Feeding Habit of Aardvark

The aardvark is a nocturnal, solitary creature that feeds nearly entirely on ants and termites (myrmecophagy); the aardvark cucumber is the sole fruit consumed by aardvarks. Cucumbers and aardvarks have a symbiotic relationship because they consume the underground fruit, then defecate the seeds near their burrows, where they grow quickly due to the loose soil and fertile nature of the earth. The period spent in the aardvark's gut aids the seed's fertility, while the fruit gives the aardvark much-needed moisture. 


The African driving ant and red ants are the only ants they don't eat. They require a wide range of foods to survive due to their strict dietary requirements. In the late afternoon or shortly after dark, an aardvark emerges from its burrow and forages over a large home range of 10 to 30 kilometres (6.2 to 18.6 mi). The aardvark will keep its nose to the ground and its ears pointing forward while foraging for food, indicating that both smell and hearing are used in the quest for food. They zigzag as they forage, and they don't normally repeat a route for 5–8 days to give termite nests time to heal before feeding on them again.


During a foraging time, they will halt and dig a "V" shaped trench with their forefeet as a means of exploring their surroundings. When a concentration of ants or termites is discovered, the aardvark burrows into it with its powerful front legs, keeping its long ears upright to listen for predators, and scoops up an incredible amount of insects with its long, sticky tongue—as many as 50,000 have been reported in one night. Its claws allow it to quickly burrow through a termite or ant mound's exceptionally hard crust. It seals the nostrils to prevent inhalation of dust. 


The aardvark's long (up to 30 centimetres (12 in) tongue swallows up the insects when it is successful; the termites' biting and stinging attacks are rendered ineffective by the thick skin. Other animals will come to pick up the remains when an aardvark visits a termite mound. Termite mounds alone are insufficient for the aardvark, therefore they search for termites on the go. When these insects move, they can form columns 10–40 metres (33–131 feet) long, which provide easy pickings for the aardvark with minimal effort. The presence of these columns is more likely in locations where livestock or other hoofed animals are present. Termites belonging to the genera Odontotermes, Microtermes, and Pseudacanthotermes are attracted to the trodden grass and faeces.


On a nightly basis, they are more active during the first four hours of the night (between 8:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m.); yet, they do not appear to favour light or gloomy evenings. They will retire to their burrow systems during inclement weather or if they are disturbed. They travel between 2 and 5 kilometres (1.2 and 3.1 miles) a night, though other studies have shown that they can go up to 30 kilometres (19 miles) in a single night.

Reproduction

Aardvarks only pair during the breeding season, and one cub weighing roughly 1.7–1.9 kilogrammes (3.7–4.2 lb) is born in May–July after a seven-month gestation period. The newborn has drooping ears and numerous creases. It will nurse from each teat in turn when nursing. The skin folds diminish after two weeks, and the ears can be held erect after three. Body hair begins to grow after 5–6 weeks. After only two weeks, it may leave the burrow to accompany its mother, consumes termites at nine weeks, and is weaned between three and sixteen weeks. It can dig its own burrows at six months of age, but it will often stay with the mother until the following mating season, and it is sexually mature at two years of age.

Conservation of Aardvark

Aardvark populations were considered to be dropping, however, this could be due to their invisibility. Because of their nocturnal and secretive habits, there are no exact counts; however, their numbers appear to remain constant overall. They are not widespread in Africa, but due to their wide range, they are able to maintain appropriate numbers. In eastern, northern, and western Africa, there may be a minor fall in population. The population of Southern Africa is not diminishing. The IUCN has designated it as a species of least concern. However, they are a vulnerable species since they are so reliant on a single type of food; consequently, if an issue with termite abundance emerges, the species as a whole will be harmed.


Aardvarks do well in captivity. The first zoo to have one was London Zoo, which had a South African species in 1869.

Did You Know?

  • Aardvark (Orycteropus afer), commonly known as antbear, is a stocky African mammal found in savanna and semi-arid habitats south of the Sahara Desert.

  • Both aardvark anteater animals have comparable face traits and eat in comparable ways, but they are otherwise dissimilar. Anteaters can be found in South and Central America, while aardvarks may be found all over Africa.

  • Aardvark or anteater have a similar appearance but are separate species.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Question1: What is the Keystone Species?

Answer: A keystone species is one that has an impact on the survival and abundance of many other species in its community or habitat. Various people believe aardvarks to be a keystone species because many mammals and insects use their abandoned burrows for protection from the sun, predators, and to raise their young.

Question2: What is the Role of Aardvark in the Ecosystem?

Answer: Various people believe aardvarks to be a keystone species because many mammals and insects use their abandoned burrows for protection from the sun, predators, and to raise their young. Aardvarks consume the fruit and distribute the seeds in their excrement, which helps the plant live and thrive. Another reason aardvarks are vital to their environment is that the aardvark cucumber plant relies on the long-nosed mammal to disseminate its seeds. The fruit grows underground and is a delicious treat for any aardvark, but because it grows underground, it is difficult for the seeds to disperse and germinate. By consuming the fruit and spreading their seeds, aardvarks help the plant survive and thrive.