8 things you didn't know about meerkats
Published: Jan 11, 2016We all love meerkats, right? But they are very clever little creatures with some very special skills...
1. They take turns babysitting
Meerkats in the mob will share and help out with looking after the pups when they are young. Mum has to go and forage for food so that she is able to supply her young pups with milk. If the mob decides to move to a different burrow the babysitters will also help transport the pups by carrying them by the scruff of their neck.
2. They can close their ears
Meerkats love to dig in the sand or dusty soil in the African dessert. Because of this their ears close-over to stop any dust or dirt from getting trapped in them whilst digging.
3. They have inbuilt hot water bottle bellies
Often called the ‘solar panel of the animal world’, the meerkat’s use their dark skinned sparsely furred bellies to warm up. They can often be seen lying on their backs in the sunshine absorbing heat, before returning to their burrows with their inbuilt water bottles!
4. They are warriors
The territories of different groups often overlap, resulting in constant disputes. These skirmishes can look a bit like an ancient human battle with both sides lining up across a field and, at the right moment, charge forward with leaps and bounds.
5. They love a good lie-in
Meerkats love sunshine and warm weather, and their underground burrows stay at a constant temperature regardless of the weather outside. They are often known to stay in their underground burrows in the mornings until the outside temperature has risen sufficiently enough, especially in the colder months.
6. They each have a different voice
Every meerkat has a different voice and they are able to identify each other without setting eyes on each other.
7. They often mistake a passing plane for a predator
Adults take turns acting as guard while the others can look for food without worries. The guard climbs to the highest rock stands upright on two legs, and then announces the beginning of guard duty with a specialized call. If a predator is spotted, the guard alerts the others with a bark or whistle. To a young meerkat anything flying in the air is deemed to be a threat, and so they can often be seen running for cover as an airplane flies overhead.
8. Their eyes have sun and sand protection
Meerkats have dark circles around each eye designed to absorb some of the bright glaring dessert sun. Their eyes also have a membrane which covers the eyes whilst digging, to stop any dirt from getting in.