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Aardvarks are nocturnal and solitary creatures that feed almost exclusively on ants and termites. An aardvark emerges from its burrow in the late afternoon or shortly after sunset, and forages over a considerable home range, swinging its long nose from side to side to pick up the scent of food. When a concentration of ants or termites is found, the aardvark digs into it with its powerful front legs, keeping its long ears upright to listen for predators, and takes up an astonishing number of insects with its long, sticky tongue, as many as 50,000 in one night has been recorded. They are exceptionally fast diggers, but otherwise move rather slowly.
Aside from digging out ants and termites, aardvarks also excavate burrows to live in: temporary sites scattered around the home range as refuges, and the main burrow which is used for breeding. Main burrows can be deep and extensive, have several entrances, and be 13 meters long. Aardvarks change the layout of their home burrow regularly, and from time to time move on and make a new one.
The aardvark is a medium-sized mammal native to Africa. The name comes from the Dutch for "earth pig", because early settlers from Europe thought it resembled a pig. Aardvarks are only vaguely pig-like; the body is stout with an arched back; the limbs are of moderate length. The front feet have lost the pollex (or 'thumb') - resulting in four toes - but the rear feet have all 5 toes. Each toe bears a large, robust nail which is somewhat flattened and shovel-like, and appears to be intermediate between a claw and a hoof. The ears are disproportionately long and the tail very thick at the base with a gradual taper. The greatly elongated head is set on a short thick neck, and at the end of the snout is a disk in which the nostrils open. The mouth is typical of species that feed on termites: small and tubular. Aardvarks have long, thin, tongues and elaborate structures supporting a keen sense of smell.
Weight is typically between 40 and 65 kilos; length is usually between 1 and 1.3 metres. Aardvarks are a pale yellowish grey in colour, often stained reddish-brown by soil. The coat is thin and the animal's primary protection is its tough skin; aardvarks have been known to sleep in a recently excavated ant nest, so well does it protect them.