/ahrd"vahrk'/, n.
a large, nocturnal, burrowing mammal, Orycteropus afer, of central and southern Africa, feeding on ants and termites and having a long, extensile tongue, strong claws, and long ears.
[1825-35; < Afrik erdvark < D aardvarken, equiv. to aarde EARTH + varken pig; see FARROW1]

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or African ant bear

Heavily built mammal (Orycteropus afer) of sub-Saharan forests and plains.

Its stout, piglike body ("aardvark" is Afrikaans for "earth pig") may be as long as 6 ft (1.8 m), including a 2-ft (60-cm) tail. It has a long snout, rabbitlike ears, short legs, and long toes with large, flattened claws. It feeds at night by ripping open ant and termite nests and lapping up the insects with a long (1-ft, or 30-cm), sticky tongue. Though not aggressive, it uses claws to fight off attackers. Its classification with regard to other mammals is uncertain.

Aardvark (Orycteropus afer).

Shostal Associates

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also called  antbear 
 stocky African mammal found south of the Sahara Desert in savanna and semiarid areas. The name aardvark—Afrikaans for “earth pig”—refers to its piglike face and burrowing habits. The aardvark weighs up to 65 kg (145 pounds) and measures up to 2.2 metres (7.2 feet) long, including the heavy, 70-cm (28-inch) tail. The face is narrow with an elongated snout, very reduced eyes, and ears up to 24 cm (9.5 inches) long. The aardvark's coat is scant and yellowish gray; the face and tail tip may be whitish. The four toes on the front foot (five on the hind feet) are equipped with strong, flattened nail-like “hooves” resembling spades.

      The aardvark excavates branching burrows, usually 2–3 metres long but sometimes up to 13 metres, with several sleeping chambers. It abandons old burrows and digs new ones frequently, which thereby provides dens used by other species such as the African wild dog (African hunting dog) (Lycaon pictus). The aardvark's diet consists almost entirely of ants and termites (termite). At night it travels 10–30 km (6–19 miles), ambling along familiar paths in a zigzag fashion, pausing frequently to sniff and press its snout against the soil. Fleshy sensory organs on the nasal septum probably detect tiny underground movements. With its strong claws the aardvark can rapidly open a cement-hard termite mound. The nostrils are squeezed shut to keep out flying dust. The sticky tongue, extending to 30 cm (nearly 12 inches) from the small mouth, is then used to lap up the insects. A thick hide protects the aardvark from insect bites and stings. If threatened while away from a sheltering burrow, an aardvark can dig its way out of sight in five minutes. An acute sense of hearing protects it from being surprised by predators, which include pythons, lions, leopards, and hyenas. If a predator tries to dig it out of its burrow, the aardvark rapidly moves soil to block the tunnel behind itself. When attacked it slashes with its formidable front claws.

      The sexes associate only during breeding periods. After a gestation of seven months, one young weighing about 2 kg is born during the rainy season. At birth the claws are already well developed. The young stays in the den for two weeks, then follows its mother. By 14 weeks it eats termites, and by 16 weeks it is weaned. It can dig its own burrow by six months of age and will leave its mother before it is one year old. Sexual maturity is attained at two years. Longevity is at least 24 years in zoos. Aardvarks indirectly benefit humans in areas where termites would otherwise damage crops. Owing mainly to their nocturnal habits, little is known about aardvark population status, but they are not endangered.

      The aardvark is the only species in the family Orycteropodidae and the only living member of order Tubulidentata (“tube teeth”). The ordinal name refers to the tiny columnlike tubules of dentine that are fused together to constitute each molar; adults lack canine teeth and incisors. Although aardvarks look like anteaters (anteater), they are actually related to elephants (elephant) (order Proboscidea (proboscidean)), hyraxes (hyrax) (order Hyracoidea), and dugongs (dugong) and manatees (manatee) (order Sirenia (sirenian)); all belong to a group of primitive ungulates (ungulate) called uranotherians. The split between this ancestral African stock and that leading to the ungulate, carnivore, xenarthran, and cetacean orders occurred as much as 90 million years ago. Fossils indicate that Tubulidentata was recognizable about 54 million years ago.

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • aardvark — (n.) 1833, from Afrikaans Du. aardvark, lit. earth pig (the animal burrows), from aard earth (see EARTH (Cf. earth)) + vark pig, cognate with O.H.G. farah (source of Ger. Ferkel young pig, sucking pig, a diminutive form), O.E. fearh (see FARROW… …   Etymology dictionary

  • aardvark — aard vark ([aum]rd v[aum]rk ), n. [D., earth pig.] (Zo[ o]l.) An edentate mammal, of the genus {Orycteropus} ({Orycteropus afer}), somewhat resembling a pig, common in some parts of Southern Africa. It is a nocturnal ungulate, burrows in the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • aardvark — ► NOUN ▪ a badger sized African burrowing mammal, with a tubular snout and a long tongue, feeding on ants and termites. ORIGIN South African Dutch, from aarde earth + vark pig …   English terms dictionary

  • aardvark — [ärd′värk΄] n. [obs. Afrik, earth pig < Du aarde, EARTH + vark, pig, PORK] a large, burrowing, nocturnal S African mammal (Orycteropus afer, order Tubulidentata) that feeds on ants and termites: it is squat and heavy with a long, sticky tongue …   English World dictionary

  • Aardvark — For other uses, see Aardvark (disambiguation). Aardvark Temporal range: Early Miocene–Recent …   Wikipedia

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  • aardvark — noun /ˈɑː(ɹ)dˌvɑː(ɹ)k,ˈɑɹdˌvɑɹk/ a) The mammal Orycteropus afer, of the order Tubulidentata, somewhat resembling a pig, common in some parts of sub Saharan Africa. The aardvark burrows in the ground and feeds mostly on termites, which it catches… …   Wiktionary

  • aardvark — UK [ˈɑː(r)dˌvɑː(r)k] / US [ˈɑrdˌvɑrk] noun [countable] Word forms aardvark : singular aardvark plural aardvarks a southern African animal with a long nose and a long sticky tongue that eats ants …   English dictionary

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