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aardwolf (ärdˈwŏlf) [key], carnivore of the hyena family. The aardwolf, Proteles cristatus, resembles the true hyena but is smaller and more delicate. It has less powerful teeth and jaws and five instead of four toes on its forepaws. The coat of the aardwolf is yellow-white with dark stripes; a ridge of hair extends down its sloping back. It is a nocturnal, burrowing animal, inhabiting sandy plain and scrub from South Africa to Angola and Somaliland. A shy animal, it feeds on small animals and insects, especially termites, and defends itself by emitting a foul-smelling fluid from anal scent glands. A litter may include as many as six cubs, but two to four is typical; gestation is around 59–61 days. Aardwolves are solitary, but several females with cubs may share a burrow. In captivity they have been known to live as long as 13 years. Aardwolves are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Hyaenidae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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See more Encyclopedia articles on: Vertebrate Zoology

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