The Diet and Feeding Habits of the Meerkat

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"The Diet and Feeding Habits of the Meerkat"
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Meerkats are an interesting example of social animals working together. Unlike most other mongooses meerkats live in a mob and work together to find food, dig burrows and raise pups. Only two pounds and twelve inches tall as adults, these tiny creatures also work together to defend themselves from predators.

During a hunt one or two sentries will be chosen to keep their eyes open exclusively for signs of danger. While all the other kats are digging in the sand these sentries watch for snakes, birds and larger mammals with utmost care. If any trouble is spotted they will use their meerkat vocabulary to alert the rest of the mob.

The next step is regrouping, abandoning all digging holes to stand together- which makes them appear larger and more dangerous. If their enemy is unimpressed they work in a swarm to fight it off, hopefully all surviving in the process so that they can return to their foraging.

These social critters hunt within sight of one another, but ultimately alone. They eat what they find, when they find it. The only exception is the food they take back for young pups. What could be so delicious that they'd keep it for themselves?

Scorpions, spiders, centipedes, all kinds of insect larvae, pupae, caterpillars, beetles, crickets, and termites. Sometimes small eggs, small reptiles, small amphibians, small birds, and plants. However, they actually prefer the insects.

If it rains in the Kalahari meerkats will stay in their burrows to avoid getting wet. Meerkats don't need to drink water directly from a lake, puddle or stream. They get enough water from the bugs they're so fond of munching.

Meerkats aren't picky eaters because they have to keep up their physique. Overnight, just regulating their body temperature, they can lose five percent of their total mass. Fortunately for them, they have evolved for life in the Kalahari desert. The speed at which they metabolize is forty percent slower than similar creatures in other areas. They use this bonus to keep themselves cool in the desert sun and warm at night.

In a mob of meerkats there is a dominant male and a dominant female. They are the leaders of the entire operation. They have final say in all things and are the only ones that are allowed to breed. At the beginning of the day it is the dominant male that decides which route to take for the hunt. He will choose one of several options. Meerkats rotate their hunts so that they don't decimate the population of available food.

An interesting fact about meerkats is that they don't mind whiners. The louder a pup begs for food the more it is likely to be fed. If they're big on begging they'll get big in general. Fortunately for the older ones the stage of staying home with a sitter is over within a month.

After thirty days, mentors step in and take the tiny pups on their first forages. They begin by handing pups live bugs to eat, then to teaching them how to dig, where to look and finally how to protect themselves from stingers. The sooner they learn to hunt with the pack the sooner everyone can start fending for themselves and fattening up for the next round of the bosses' offspring.


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