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Aardvarks

The aardvark is a strange-looking creature – to us, that is, no doubt it looks perfectly normal to other aardvarks. The name is Afrikaans for “earth pig”, but it is certainly not a pig despite some superficial resemblances. It does, however, do a lot of rooting about in soil and termite mounds for its food, which consists of ants and termites.

One of the more remarkable things about the aardvark is that it is a “living fossil”. When its mitochondrial DNA was sequenced in 1999 it was discovered that the aardvark could be the closest living relation to the first placental mammals that walked on planet Earth some 100 million years ago. It appears that its DNA has undergone hardly any change during that time. This posits the idea that the earliest placental mammals (i.e. not marsupials or monotremes) may have looked something like modern aardvarks, but we cannot be certain of that.

Another finding that came from the DNA analysis was that the aardvark is more closely related to the elephant than to the anteaters of South America, despite occupying a similar ecological niche to the latter.

  • Have you ever seen an aardvark in the wild?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Have you seen one in a zoo?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Did you know about the “living fossil” claim?

    • Yes
    • No

What do you think?

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Legend

Written by Indexer

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