The aardvark has several important adaptations for its burrowing, insectivorous life style. Perhaps the most important are the large claws on its front limbs. These claws enable the aardvark to not only dig out immense burrows for habitation use, but also to dig into termite mounds to extract a meal. Interestingly, when the aardvark leaves its burrow to dig a new one, the old burrow is often taken up by the African wild dog, where the pups shelter until they are old enough to leave the protection of the burrow.
The aardvark also has thick skin, which keep the termites from biting it, allowing it to feast in relative peace. A further adaptation to keep insects (as well as dust) out is in its nose: it can close its nose, preventing both bugs and dust from invading its breathing passages. Finally, another very important insectivorous adaptation is the tongue of the aardvark. The long, sticky tongue of the aardvark is usually about 12 inches long, equivalent to about one-sixth the length of the animal! Long, sticky tongues are a fairly common adaptation for termite-eaters such as the numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus), pangolins (Manis sp.), and the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) among them.
|A southern tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla) shows off its extraordinarily long tongue during an animal demonstration at one of Denver Zoo's teen career days. Tamanduas are also insectivorous, and clearly also possess an amazing tongue.|