name = Aardwolf
status = LR/lc | status_system = IUCN2.3
status_ref = IUCN2006|assessors=Hyaena Specialist Group|year=1996|id=18372|title=Proteles cristatus|downloaded=12 May 2006]
image_width = 300px
image_caption = Aardwolf
phylum = Chordata
subfamilia = Protelinae
subfamilia_authority = Flower, 1869
genus = "Proteles"
species = "P. cristatus"
binomial = "Proteles cristatus"
binomial_authority = Sparrman, 1783
range_map_width = 300px
range_map_caption = Aardwolf range
The aardwolf ("Proteles cristatus") is a small, insectivorous
hyena-like mammal, native to Eastern and Southern Africa. The name means "earth wolf" in Afrikaans/Dutch.cite encyclopedia|title= Aardwolf (Proteles cristatus)|encyclopedia= Encyclopaedia Britannica|publisher= Encyclopaedia Britannica Online|date= 2007] It is also called "maanhaar-jackal" and "protelid". Unlike other hyenas, the diet of the aardwolf almost completely consists of termites, other insect larvae and carrion.cite book| last = | first = | coauthors = | title = Wildlife Fact File| publisher = IMP Publishing Ltd| date =1994| pages = Group 1, Card 144| isbn = 08-50-04-0016 ]
The aardwolf is the only surviving species of the subfamily Protelinae. Two geographically separate subspecies are recognized: "Proteles cristatus cristatus" of
Southern Africa, and "Proteles cristatus septentrionalis" of eastern and northeastern Africa. [http://search.eb.com/eb/article-9003205 "aardwolf."] " Encyclopædia Britannica". 8 Jan. 2007] [ [http://www4.ncsu.edu/~jkim2/MolEvo/Spring2006/hyaenidae.pdf Molecular systematics of the Hyaenidae] ] It is usually placed in the Hyaenidae, though formerly separated into a monotypic family, Protelidae. The aardwolf lives in the scrublands of eastern and southern Africa. These are the areas of land covered with stunted trees or shrubs. The aardwolf hides in a burrow during the day and comes out at night to search for food. It is related to hyenas, but unlike its relatives, it does not hunt large prey . This unusual animal is a mass killer-of insects. It feeds mainly on termites and can eat more than 200,000 in a single night, using its long, sticky tongue to collect them.
The aardwolf looks most like the
Striped Hyena, but is significantly smaller with a pointier muzzle, sharper ears used for listening for harvester termites, black vertical stripes on a coat of yellowish fur, and a long, distinct manedown the middle line of the neck and back, which is raised during a confrontation to make the aardwolf's size appear bigger. It is 55–80 cm long, excluding its bushy 20–30 cm tail, stands about 40–50 cm at the shoulder, and weighs between 9 and 14 kg. Its front feet have 5 toes, unlike other hyenas which have four toes. Its teeth and skull are similar to that of the hyena, although the cheek teeth are specialised for eating insects, and its tongue for licking them up. As the aardwolf ages, it will normally lose some of its teeth, though this has little impact on their feeding habits due to the soft nature of the insects they consume. It has two glands at the rear that secrete a musky fluid for marking territory and communicating with other aardwolves.
Distribution and habitat
The aardwolf lives on open, dry plains and
bushland, while avoiding mountainous areas. Due to its specific food requirements, the animal is only found in regions where termites of the family Hodotermitidaeoccur. Termites of this family depend on dead and withered grass and are most populous in heavily grazed grasslands and savannahs, including farmland. For most of the year, aardwolves spend time in shared territories consisting of up to a dozen dens which are occupied for six weeks at a time.
There are two distinct populations: one in Southern Africa, and another in East and Northeast Africa. The species does not occur in the intermediary
Aardwolves are shy and nocturnal, sleeping in underground burrows by day. They usually use existing burrows of
aardvarks, Old World porcupines or springhares, despite being capable of creating their own. By night, an aardwolf can consume up to 200,000 harvester termitesusing its sticky, long tongue. They take special care not to destroy the termite mound or consume the entire colony, which ensures that the termites can rebuild and provide a continuous supply of food. They will often memorise and return to nests to save the trouble of finding a new one. They are also known to feed on other insects, larvae, and eggs, and occasionally small mammalsand birds. Unlike other hyenas, aardwolves do not scavenge or kill larger animals.
The aardwolf is primarily solitary (especially males), but a mating pair will occupy the same territory with their young. Young aardwolves generally achieve
sexual maturityafter two years, and the breeding seasonvaries depending on their location, but normally takes place during the autumn or spring. During the breeding season, male aardwolves will search their own territory as well as others' for a female to mate with. This can often result in conflict between two male aardwolves when one has wandered into another's territory. Gestationlasts between 90 and 110 days, producing one to five cubs(most often two or three) during the rainy season, when termites are active. The first six to eight weeks are spent in the denwith the mother. After three months, they begin supervised foraging and by four months are normally independent. However, they will often use the same den as their mother until the next breeding season. They can achieve a lifespan of up to 15 years when in captivity.
Interaction with humans
The aardwolf has taken advantage of the development of
agriculturein the continent.Fact|date=February 2007 They are often considered useful, non-dangerous animals by farmers. However, in some areas the aardwolf is hunted for its fur. Encounters with dogs are another threat.
* [http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Proteles_cristatus.html Animal Diversity Web]
* [http://www.hyaenidae.org/the-hyaenidae/aardwolf-proteles-cristatus.html IUCN Hyaenidae Specialist Group Aardwolf pages on hyaenidae.org]
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