Adorable, cuddly, chaotic: and many other adjectives come to mind when we think of meerkats. We have an idea of them that reflects life, mischief, sweetness … Right? Well, the funny thing is that this idea is only based on myths. Do you want to know a little more about this mammal? We tell you a lot of curiosities about the meerkat.
Dismantling myths about meerkats: the curiosities you did not know
Meerkats are immune to venom
Meerkats can take a bite from some types of poisonous snakes. Biologists have discovered that meerkats are immune to the venom of some snakes, as they belong to the mongoose family. In some parts of the world, people value mongooses as guardians of the home because they can fight deadly snakes, such as cobras. If they are bitten, they are unwell for a few hours, but they are capable of always making a full recovery.
Meerkats show aggressiveness and a lot of determination when they want to eat
Meerkats may look absolutely adorable, but they lead somewhat more dangerous and aggressive lives. For example: they have developed a technique to manipulate the venom found in scorpions, which they eat. When a scorpion sees a meerkat, it moves quickly to kill it. The scorpion may be aware that a meerkat is nearby, but it catches the arachnid so quickly that it cannot even attack it. First, the meerkat focuses on the tail, bites the scorpion’s stinger, and discards it. Without its tail, the scorpion cannot attack with its venom. However, there will still be poison in his exoskeleton. To combat this, the meerkats have learned to rub scorpions in the sand to remove any remaining venom. And lunch is ready!
Meerkats are very smart
Meerkats are much smarter than they appear. A recent study found that they use complex coordinated behavior, rivaling that of chimpanzees, baboons, dolphins, and even humans. They solve tasks with the help of their group, but also with a touch of independent thinking. The study saw meerkats engaged in a wide variety of social and asocial behaviors to solve tasks. In general, social factors helped attract meerkats to the task, while asocial processes helped them solve it.
Meerkats are omnivorous animals!
You might be surprised to learn that meerkats are omnivores – they eat fruits and vegetables in addition to animals. Unlike humans, they do not have excess stores of body fat and therefore foraging is a constant activity. Their diet consists mainly of insects, which they sniff using their overdeveloped sense of smell. They also eat small rodents, fruits, birds, eggs, lizards, poisonous scorpions as well as snakes.
The desert is dry, but meerkats don’t drink water
Despite living in the desert, meerkats do not need extra water in their diets. They get all the moisture they need from the insects and larvae they eat. A human would die in 3 to 5 days without water under the same conditions.
Meerkats live in all kinds of deserts
Meerkats live throughout the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, throughout much of the Namib Desert in Namibia, and in southwestern Angola and South Africa.
Meerkats have extraordinary eyesight
They can see birds for miles on the horizon! Vision is your most developed sense. They have dark patches around their eyes to reduce glare from the sun and help them see far away. Elongated, horizontal pupils give meerkats a wide range of vision without having to turn their heads. In addition, another curious fact about their eyes is that, as they are burrowing animals, their eye developed an ocular membrane to protect themselves from the earth.