Meerkats are brown, fuzzy little members of the mongoose family with long tails (surprisingly non-bushy for the mongoose family,) that help them stand upright, and long claws, (almost one inch long each) for digging. This is because a lot of the food they eat comes from underground. Learn more about meerkat’s hunting techniques . . . They like to eat scorpions, and insects, although they also eat small mammals. Meerkats have black patches around their eyes, to protect from the sun, and ears that can fold down for convenience when digging. Learn more meerkat trivia at World Animal Foundation, Mental Floss, and World Wildlife Fund.
Meerkats teach their young to hunt for food. When meerkats are very young the adult meerkats give the little meerkats dead prey, and as they get older, the adult scorpions will maybe disable the prey, so, for example, the adult meerkat might bite off a scorpion’s stinger. (Meerkats are immune to scorpion venom!) When the meerkat pups are nearly adults, they are presented with (for example) an alive and completely able scorpion, and forced to kill it by themselves. Learn more about this . . .
Meerkats live in groups, or mobs, of 20, usually, but they can be as big as 40. In these mobs, there is usually one dominant female meerkat and male meerkat, and the female meerkat is sort of in charge of the whole mob. These meerkat patriarchs are generally the only females in the mob allowed to have pups, and if any other meerkats reproduce, the alpha female kills the new litter of pups and gives the lower level females who dared to reproduce two options: to either leave the mob and try to fend for themselves, or be a nanny of sorts to the alpha female’s litter. Learn more about meerkat alpha females at Smithsonian.com and Mental Floss . . .
When meerkats are really young, they follow adults around, squeaking for food. Adults will sacrifice their own meals. Zoologists at the university of Cambridge studied groups of wild meerkats to try to understand why the young meerkats stopped begging for free meals. They found that as a meerkat’s voice’s pitch changed as it grew older, the meerkat became less persuasive in getting food from adults. In a nutshell, the older the meerkats got and the more their pitch changed, the less likely the chance of the adults giving them food. The zoologists followed adult meerkats with speakers that played young meerkat squeaking. The adults started offering their food even to young adult meerkats, who would normally have not been able to beg their way out of finding their own food. Learn more about this . . .
Meerkats live in Africa and while they are not endangered, they are one of the most strictly regulated species in the world. They are known for their tendency to stand upright.