Aardvark: The only living kind of its species

A species which mystified the taxonomic classification – the aardvark certainly is a unique African mammal. In this blog post you can learn more about these fascinating animals.


It is not a pig nor a bear… It is the only one of its kind: The aardvark
A species which is a mystery for the taxonomic classification and their common name does not really help to solve it: Isambane (Zulu), Erdferkel (German), Aardvark (Afrikaans), Antbear (English). This animal is a truly unique species among the South African mammals.

Originally it was assumed that the aardvark belongs to the same species as the anteater who is common in Latin America. Finally, the aardvark was categorized to its own family and order. This makes the animal to the only taxonomic order with only one species.

-Order: Tubulidentata
-Family: Orycteropodidae
-Genus: Orycteropus afer
-IUCN red list: not threatened

Diet and anatomy of the aardvark

A long, pig-like nose and long, pip-shaped ears as well as strong short legs and a very muscular tail are typical characteristics of an aardvark. Their skin is almost hairless with a yellow-brownish colour, similar to the earth colour of their habitat.

The diet of an aardvark mainly consists out of wood-eating termites, but during the dry season they also eat ants. Their teeth are only little developed because they use their long and sticky tongue to test and lick the food they dug out.


The meaning of the aardvark in the ecosystem

Aardvarks are the diggers of South Africa which makes them an important part of the ecosystem. Their shovel-like claws and muscular body are perfectly suited for digging. There are three main holes which are dug by aardvarks – a cave where they live in, a temporarily cover and a cave for sleeping as well as an excavation for their food search. You can recognize an occupied cave by the small flies which gather around the entrance. Aardvarks are often referred to as a key species (which mean they play a unique and significant role for the function of the ecosystem) because their abandoned caves are an important shelter for other species: As a den for African wild dogs or hyaenas, honey badger, jackals, mongoose, shrub hares, rodents or even some bird species.


This mysterious, solitary creature of the night is wandering around in the dark, its nose on the ground and can effortlessly walk for long distances. But as with many other intelligent species their nightly walks have a purpose: They are looking for a meal. Aardvarks are rarely seen in the bush which makes the capture or a photo with a camera trap the ideal opportunity to collect data about their population and distribution range.

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