Meerkats aren't your typical cute, furry rodents. These desert dwellers are members of close-knit communities where everyone pitches in to look out for predators and teach the young. When they aren't looking for a bite to eat or grooming each other's fur, however, meerkats can be lethally competitive. What is it about these African critters that leaves us so enthralled?
Meerkats live in:
Meerkats live in the Kalahari Desert, which spans across South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Angola. The Lacey Act states that because meerkats aren't native to American soil, it's illegal to bring them to the U.S. or keep them as pets without a license.
Meerkats are relatives of which of the following rodents?
Meerkats are about the size of squirrels, standing 10 to 12 inches and weighing about two pounds, but they're related to the mongoose.
One of the special features of a meerkat's eyes and ears is:
Meerkats have a unique ability to keep sand out of their eyes and ears, a very important trait considering their desert habitat. Meerkats can close their ears to prevent grains of sand from infiltrating, and they have a special membrane in their eyes, known as the nictitating membrane, that can remove sand when they blink.
Most of a meerkat's diet consists of:
Meerkats are primarily insectivores. About 82 percent of their diet consists of insects, but they also dine on the occasional snake, bird egg and poisonous scorpion.
Meerkats may share their underground burrows with:
As insectivores, meerkats are known to chow down on many different types of bugs, but one bug they don't eat is beetles. They will often share their complex system of burrows with beetles, as well as other rodents like squirrels.
Sentinels are special lookout meerkats that watch for danger as the rest of the gang goes about its daily routine. When a sentinel senses danger, he lets out a special bark that alarms the other meerkats. Studies have shown sentinels are extremely effective in tracking predators up to 150 meters away.
A meerkat pup is defined as:
Meerkat pups are the babies of the group, defined as any meerkat that is 10 months old or younger.
A typical meerkat gang consists of:
Meerkats generally live in gangs of two to 50 members. Every gang has a dominant female and male, known as the alpha female and alpha male, as well as subordinate adults, known as beta females and beta males, and pups. Beta females and males, defined as any adult meerkats other than the leaders, usually leave the gang by the age of three.
Cooperative breeding among meerkats means that:
Cooperative breeding in meerkat communities is the process in which everyone cares for meerkat pups. While the mother does spend a good deal of time with her pups, other meerkats babysit when she's off looking for food. Because meerkat pups rely more on mentoring than instinct in their first months, elder meerkats educate them about how to forage for food and detect predators.
How long does a meerkat pregnancy last?
Female meerkats are pregnant for about 11 weeks before birthing a litter of two to four pups. Meerkats breed year-round, and sex is initiated by males fighting with females.
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