15 COOLEST Facts About Meerkats!
Check out these fun facts about the cutest critters that stand on two legs!
Meerkats! They're adorable, they're all over TV, and you've probably seen them in the zoo. These cute critters live in the deserts of Southern Africa, and they're pretty little - usually 35cm tall at most, and weighing less than a kilogram! Wanna find out what their family lives are like, or why they stand on their back legs? Find out with these fabulous facts! Don't forget to look up some more fascinating facts from the animal kingdom - learn all about capybaras, red pandas, or even hyenas!
1. They're very social
Meerkats are not only adorable, they're also very social! They hang out in a big group called a "mob" or a "gang", which can have up to 50 meerkats! Usually though it's closer to10-15 individual meerkats. It must get pretty chaotic around the dinner table!
2. They're smart!
A study at St. Andrews University in Scotland found that meerkats display complicated behaviour, similar to chimps, dolphins and humans. They will work together to solve problems, which not all animals do!
3. They're omnivores
That means they eat both vegetables and meat in their diet! When we say meat though, it's referring to insects (which make up most of their diet), small rodents and even sometimes scorpions and snakes! Not exactly a juicy ribeye steak!
4. They've got a special superpower
Now this is interesting - meerkats are immune to some venomous snake, scorpion and insect bites. This is useful because it means they can eat them, and also makes them good at protecting themselves and each other from poisonous bites!
5. They teach their kids
A baby meerkat is called a "pup", and their parents will bring them dead scorpions to show them what they are. The parents will later bring live scorpions and bite off their stings so the pups can learn to hunt scorpions without hurting themselves.
6. They're good home innovators
Meerkats love to dig, and spend a lot of their time in tunnels and burrows. But if they can they will often move into holes already dug by other animals, like ground squirrels, and then redig them to suit their preferences! These burrows usually have multiple entrances and have separate chambers for sleeping and going to the bathroom!
7. They're not always friendly!
Despite being social animals meerkats aren't always best friends with each other! Meerkats are pretty defensive of their space, and the fighting can get really serious. Scientists studied over 1000 animal species and found that meerkats are the most murderous, with 20% of meerkat deaths being murders! Gulp!
8. They're great at keeping watch
You know that thing meerkats do where they stand up on two legs? There's a reason for that! They're actually scanning the horizon for danger, and if they see it they will report back to the rerst of the group. They'll often find a higher point to do this from, like a termite mound or a rock. They still do it in captivity, even though there is almost no chance of them being attacked by predators at the zoo.
9. They love to chat
Meerkats have at least 10 different vocalizations, from growls and murmurs to a defensive bark. They'll huddle together and hiss at predators, too, to seem scarier. Here's something fascinating - the meerkats on watch duty, standing up on their back legs, have different sounds to alert the mob if the predator is coming by land or by sky!
10. They have jobs
Well, not quite in the same way people do! Meerkats live in a supportive community where everyone pitches in to keep the group safe by doing a different job. So, some are in charge of keeping watch, some will hunt for food, and some are babysitters for the pups! They swap jobs around as well, which probably stops them from getting bored!
11. They can get quite old
In the wild meerkats tend to live about eight years. That's not bad considering how many predators they have - their immunity to lots of kinds of venom definitely helps. In zoos meerkats live even longer, usually about 12-14 years, but they have been known to live for up to 20 years!
12. Their eyes are amazing
What do meerkats do best? Digging and keeping watch. Their eyes are adapted amazingly well for both of these. First of all they have a membranous "third eyelid" that protects their eyes from sand and dirt while digging tunnels. Second of all, the dark patches of fur around their eyes helps to cut down on the glare of the sun, kind of like built-in sunglasses! They also have long horizontal pupils, which means they can see in "widescreen" without having to turn their heads!
13. They don't drink water
Despite living in the dry desert meerkats don't drink water! They get all the water they need from the insects and plants in their diet. While a human being can't survive long at all without water, lots of desert animals have adapted to survive in the dry climate perfectly (camels for example, and also smaller desert mammals like gerbils don't drink huge amounts of water).
14. They sleep in piles
Just in case you thought they couldn't get any cuter! Meerkats love to sleep in cuddle piles! They do this especially in the colder months to stay warm inside their burrows - in the summer they might even sleep outside, but still - awww!
15. They have eating contests
While meerkats do fight each other a lot, they will also try other ways to solve their problems. For female meerkats, usually the biggest daughter of the dominant female will take over as the chief mum of the group. But if another female, maybe her younger sister, wants to be in charge, they might have an eating contest to see who's the biggest and the toughest! Imagine ending YOUR sibling rows like that!