name = Aardwolf
fossil_range = Pleistocene - Recent
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
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Mammalia
ordo = Carnivora
familia = Hyaenidae
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.

Physical characteristics

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 mane down 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 Hodotermitidae occur. 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 miombo forests.


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 termites using 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 mammals and 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 maturity after two years, and the breeding season varies 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. Gestation lasts 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 den with 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 agriculture in 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.


External links

* [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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Look at other dictionaries:

  • aardwolf — [ärd′woolf΄] n. pl. aardwolves [ärd′woolvz΄] [Afrik, earth wolf] a nocturnal S African carnivore (Proteles cristatus) of the same family as the hyena, that feeds chiefly on termites and insect larvae …   English World dictionary

  • aardwolf — /ahrd woolf /, n., pl. aardwolves. a striped, hyenalike mammal, Proteles cristatus, of southern and eastern Africa, that feeds chiefly on insects. [1825 35; < Afrik erdwolf < D aardwolf, equiv. to aarde EARTH + wolf WOLF] * * * ▪ mammal… …   Universalium

  • aardwolf — aard•wolf [[t]ˈɑrdˌwʊlf[/t]] n. pl. wolves mam a shaggy, striped African carnivore, Proteles cristatus, related to the hyena, that subsists largely on termites and insect larvae • Etymology: 1825–35; < Afrik erdwolf < D aardwolf=aarde… …   From formal English to slang

  • aardwolf — urvinė hiena statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas taksono rangas rūšis atitikmenys: lot. Proteles cristatus angl. aardwolf; earth wolf vok. Erdwolf rus. земляной волк pranc. loup fouisseur ryšiai: platesnis terminas – urvinės hienos …   Žinduolių pavadinimų žodynas

  • aardwolf — noun (plural aardwolves) Etymology: Afrikaans, from aard + wolf Date: 1833 a maned striped nocturnal mammal (Proteles cristatus) of southern and eastern Africa that resembles the related hyenas and feeds chiefly on insects and especially termites …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • aardwolf — noun The insectivorous mammal species Proteles cristatus, of South Africa, related to and resembling the hyena and having an erectile crest. See Also: aardvark …   Wiktionary

  • aardwolf — South African carnivorous fox like quadruped Unusual Animals …   Phrontistery dictionary

  • aardwolf — n. striped mammal native of southern and eastern Africa that has the characteristics of a hyena and feeds mainly on insects and especially termites …   English contemporary dictionary

  • aardwolf — [ α:dwʊlf] noun (plural aardwolves) a black striped African mammal of the hyena family, feeding mainly on termites. [Proteles cristatus.] Origin C19: S. Afr. Du., from aarde earth + wolf wolf …   English new terms dictionary

  • aardwolf — aard·wolf …   English syllables

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