The aardwolf (Proteles cristata) is a small, insectivorous hyena, native to Eastern and Southern Africa. The name means "earth wolf" in Afrikaans/Dutch. It is also called "maanhaar jackal". Unlike other hyenas, the diet of the aardwolf almost completely consists of termites, other insect larvae and carrion.
The aardwolf is the only surviving species of the subfamily Protelinae. Two subspecies are recognized: Proteles cristatus cristatus of Southern Africa, and Proteles cristatus septentrionalis of eastern and northeastern Africa. It is usually placed in the Hyaenidae, though formerly separated into the 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.
The aardwolf looks like a very small Striped Hyena. They have a more slender muzzle, sharper ears utilized in the hunt 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 (22–31 in) long, excluding its bushy 20–30 cm (8–12 in) tail, stands about 40–50 cm (16–20 in) at the shoulder, and weighs between 9 and 14 kg (20–31 lb). 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.
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