As I am very much restricted in my movements and seldom go out there so there is very little of interest in my life that I can write about. I really enjoyed doing my own A-Z challenge and also the Zodiac. What next I asked myself? How about an A-Z of animals, the rarest or most unusual the better. I am not sure of how much interest this will be to others but I may learn a little more about the wonderful world of nature than I previously knew. Perhaps others will as well, or at least I hope so.
THE AARDVARK (Orycteropus afer) is a medium-sized burrowing, nocturnal mammal native to Africa. It is the only living species of the order Tubulidentata, although other prehistoric species and genera of Tubulidetata are known. It is sometimes colloquially called "African antbear" or the "Cape anteater" after the Cape of Good Hope. The scientific name of the aardvark comes from the Greek (orykteropous) meaning "digging foot" and afer: from Africa.
It is vaguely pig-like in appearance. Its body is stout with an arched back and is sparsely covered with coarse hairs. The limbs are of moderate length. The front feet have lost the pollex (or 'thumb'), resulting in four toes, while the rear feet have all five toes. Each toe bears a large, robust nail which is somewhat flattened and shovel-like, and appears to be intermediate between a claw and a hoof. The ears, which are very effective, are disproportionately long, and the tail is very thick at the base and gradually tapers. The greatly elongated head is set on a short, thick neck, and the end of the snout bears a disc, which houses it's nostrils. The snout resembles an elongated pig snout. The mouth is small and tubular, typical of species that feed on ants and termites. The aardvark has a long, thin, snakelike, protruding tongue (as much as 30 cms (12") long and elaborate structures supporting a keen sense of smell. It has short powerful legs and compact claws.
An aardvark's weight is typically between 40 and 65 kilograms (88 and 140 lb). The length is usually between 1 and 1.3 metres (3.3 and 4.3 ft) and can reach lengths of 2.2 metres (7'3") when its tail (which can be up to 70 cms (28") is taken into account. It is pale yellowish-gray in colour and often stained reddish-brown by soil. The coat is thin, and the animal's primary protection is its tough skin. It has been known to sleep in a recently excavated ant nest, which also serves as protection from its predators.
Genetically speaking, the aardvark is a living fossil, as its chromosomes are highly conserved, reflecting much of the early eutherian arrangement before the divergence of the major modern taxa.
Aardvarks live in sub-Saharan Africa, where there is suitable habitat for them to live, such as savannas, grasslands, woodlands and bushland, and available food (i.e. ants and termites). The only major habitat they are not present in is swamp forest. They have been documented as high as 3,200 metres (10,500ft) in Ethopia. They are known to live throughout sub-Saharan Africa all the way to South Africa with few exceptions. These exceptions are coastal areas of Namibia, Ivory Coast and Ghana. They are also not present in Madasgascar.
Fossils from the aardvark have been dated to 5 million years, and have been located throughout Europe and Asia. A close relative lived in Madagascar during the last ice age.