Found throughout southern Africa, aardvarks use their keen sense of smell to sniff out their favorite food — termites.
Aardvarks live throughout Africa, south of the Sahara. Their name comes from South Africa's Afrikaans language and means "earth pig." A glimpse of the aardvark's body and long snout brings the pig to mind. On closer inspection, the aardvark appears to include other animal features as well. It boasts rabbitlike ears and a kangaroo tail — yet the aardvark is related to none of these animals.
Aardvarks are nocturnal. They spend the hot African afternoon holed up in cool underground burrows dug with their powerful feet and claws that resemble small spades. After sunset, aardvarks put those claws to good use in acquiring their favorite food — termites.
While foraging in grasslands and forests aardvarks, also called "antbears," may travel several miles a night in search of large, earthen termite mounds. A hungry aardvark digs through the hard shell of a promising mound with its front claws and uses its long, sticky, wormlike tongue to feast on the insects within. It can close its nostrils to keep dust and insects from invading its snout, and its thick skin protects it from bites. It uses a similar technique to raid underground ant nests.
Female aardvarks typically give birth to one newborn each year. The young remain with their mother for about six months before moving out and digging their own burrows, which can be extensive dwellings with many different openings.
Average life span in captivity: 23 years
Size: Head and body, 43 to 53 in (109 to 135 cm); Tail, 21 to 26 in (53 to 66 cm)
Weight: 110 to 180 lbs (50 to 82 kg)
Did you know?
An aardvark's tongue can be up to 12 in (30.5 cm) long and is sticky to help extract termites from the earthen mounds.