The aardvark (Orycteropus afer) is the sole surviing species in its order, the Tubulidentata. Aardvarks are medium-sized mammals with a bulky body, arched back, medium-length legs, long ears (they resemble those of a donkey), a long snout, and a thick tail. They have a sparse coat of coarse greyish brown fur covering their body. Aardvarks have four toes on their front feet and five toes on their rear feet. Each toe has a flat, sturdy nail that they use for digging burrows and tearing into insect nests in search of food.
Aardvarks have very thick skin which provides them protection from insect bites and even the bites of predators. Their teeth lack enamel and, as a result, wear down and must regrow continuously.
Aardvarks have small eyes and their retina only contains rods (this means they are color-blind). Like many nocturnal animals, aardvarks have a keen sense of smell and very good hearing. Their front claws are especially robust, enabling them to dig burrows and break open termite nests with ease. Their long, serpentine tongue is sticky and can gather up ants and termites with great efficiency.
Aardvarks are known by several common names including antbears, anteaters or Cape anteaters. The name "aardvark" is Afrikaans (a daughter language of Dutch) for "earth pig". Despite these common names, aardvarks are not closely related to pigs or anteaters. Instead, they occupy their own distinct order.
Aardvarks are solitary, nocturnal mammals. They spend the daylight hours safely tucked away inside their borrows and emerge to feed during the late afternoon or early evening. Aardvarks are extraordinarily fast diggers and can excavate a hole 2 feet deep in less than 30 seconds. The main predators of aardvarks include lions, leopards, and pythons.
Size and Weight:
The classification of the aardvark has long been controversial. At one time, aardvarks were classified with the pangolins in the order Xenarthra. But placement among the xenarthrans is wrong for both pangolins and aardvarks. Today, the aardvark occupies its own order of mammals, the Tubulidentata.