Proteles – Aardwolf

Unlike other hyenas, they do not hunt or scavenge but mainly consume termites

Found primarily in the open plains and bushland of eastern and southern Africa, the aardwolf’s name, which translates to “earth-wolf” from Afrikaans and Dutch, hints at its terrestrial lifestyle and carnivorous diet. However, unlike its hyena cousins, the aardwolf’s diet is primarily insectivorous, specializing in termites.

The aardwolf’s appearance is striking, with yellowish-grey fur adorned with several vertical black stripes, resembling a small, striped hyena. This distinctive pelage provides camouflage in the tall grasses of its habitat, aiding in stealth and protection from predators. The presence of a long, black mane running down its neck and back, which can be erected to make the animal appear larger and more intimidating when threatened, is another notable feature. This mane, combined with their sharp, pointed ears and a bushy tail marked with a black tip, adds to the aardwolf’s unique visual profile.

Aardwolves are remarkably adapted to a diet of insects. They can consume up to 250,000 termites in a single night, using their long, sticky tongues to collect the insects efficiently. The aardwolf’s tongue is specially adapted to this diet, being both sticky enough to capture termites and tough enough to withstand their defensive bites. Aside from termites, the aardwolf may also consume other insect larvae and insects, though termites constitute the vast majority of their diet.

Aardwolves are nocturnal, emerging from their burrows at dusk to forage throughout the night. They are solitary foragers, with individuals or mated pairs maintaining territories that they defend from others of their species. Communication within and between aardwolf territories is facilitated through scent marking and vocalizations, including soft growls and loud barks when threatened.

Unlike other hyenas, the aardwolf does not hunt large prey and lacks the strong jaws and teeth necessary for bone-crushing. Instead, their teeth are reduced in size, which is suitable for their insectivorous diet.