"I can't feel my tongue!"
|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
|The meerkat or suricate Suricata suricatta is a small mammal and a member of the mongoose family. It inhabits all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana and South Africa. A group of meerkats is called a "mob", "gang", or "clan".|
"Meerkat" is an English loan word from Afrikaans. The name came from Dutch but by misidentification. Dutch meerkat and German Meerkatze mean "guenon", a monkey of the Cercopithecus genus. The word "meerkat" looks like Dutch for "lake cat", but the suricata is not in the cat family, and neither suricatas nor guenons are attracted to lakes; the word possibly started as a Dutch adaptation of a derivative of Sanskrit markaţa मर्कट = "monkey", perhaps in Africa via an Indian sailor onboard a Dutch East India Company ship. The traders of the Dutch East India Company were likely familiar with monkeys, but the Dutch settlers attached the name to the wrong animal at the Cape. The suricata is called stokstaartje = "little stick-tail" in Dutch and Erdmännchen = "little earth-man" in German.
According to African popular belief (mainly in the Zambian/Zimbabwean region), the meerkat is also known as the sun angel, as it protects villages from the moon devil or the werewolf which is believed to attack stray cattle or lone tribesmen.
The meerkat is a small diurnal herpestid (mongoose) weighing on average about 731 grams (1.61 pounds) for males and 720 grams (1.58 pounds) for females. Its long slender body and limbs give it a body length of 25 to 35 cm (10 to 14 inches) and an added tail length of 17 to 25 cm (7 to 10 inches). Its tail is not bushy like all other mongoose species, but is rather long and thin and tapers to a black or reddish colored pointed tip. The meerkat uses its tail to balance when standing upright. Its face tapers, coming to a point at the nose, which is brown. The eyes always have black patches around them, which help deflect the sun's glare. The meerkat has small black crescent-shaped ears that can close when digging to keep sand out. Like cats, meerkats have binocular vision, a large peripheral range, depth perception, and eyes on the front of their faces.
At the end of each of a meerkat's "fingers" is a non-retractable, strong, 2 cm (0.8 inches) long, curved claw used for digging underground burrows and digging for prey. Claws are also used with muscular hindlegs to help climb the occasional tree. They have four toes on each foot and long slender limbs. The coat is usually fawn-colored peppered with gray, tan, or brown with a silver tint. They have short parallel stripes across their backs, extending from the base of the tail to the shoulders. The patterns of stripes are unique to each meerkat. The underside of the meerkat has no markings but the belly has a patch which is only sparsely covered with hair and shows the black skin underneath. The meerkat uses this area to absorb heat while standing on its rear legs, usually early in the morning after cold desert nights.
Diet and foraging behaviour
Meerkats are primarily insectivores, but also eat lizards, snakes, spiders, plants, eggs and small mammals. They are partially immune to certain venoms, and eat scorpions (after removing the stinger) and some snakes.  They have no excess body fat stores, so foraging for food is a daily need.
Meerkats forage in a group with one "sentinel" on guard watching for predators while the others search for food. Sentry duty is usually approximately an hour long. Baby meerkats do not start foraging for food until they are about 6 weeks old, and do so by following an older member of the group who acts as the pup's tutor.
Meerkats are burrowing animals, living in large underground networks with multiple entrances which they leave only during the day. They are very social, living in colonies of up to about 30. Animals in the same group regularly groom each other to strengthen social bonds. The alpha pair often scent-mark subordinates of the group to express their authority, and this is usually followed by the subordinates grooming the alphas and licking their faces. This behavior is also usually practiced when group members are reunited after a short period apart. Most meerkats in a group are all siblings and offspring of the alpha pair.
Meerkats demonstrate altruistic behavior within their colonies; one or more meerkats stand sentry (lookout) while others are foraging or playing, to warn them of approaching dangers. When a predator is spotted, the meerkat performing as sentry gives a warning bark, and other members of the gang will run and hide in one of the many bolt holes they have spread across their territory. The sentry meerkat is the first to reappear from the burrow and search for predators, constantly barking to keep the others underground. If there is no threat, the sentry meerkat stops talking and the others feel safe to emerge.
Meerkats also babysit the young in the group. Females that have never produced offspring of their own often lactate to feed the alpha pair's young, while the alpha female is away with the rest of the group. They also protect the young from threats, often endangering their own lives. On warning of danger, the babysitter takes the young underground to safety and is prepared to defend them if the danger follows. If retreating underground is not possible, she collects all young together and lies on top of them.
Meerkats are also known to share their burrow with the yellow mongoose and ground squirrel, species with which they do not compete for resources. If they are unlucky, sometimes they share their burrow with snakes.
Meerkats are the first non-human mammal species seen actively teaching their young. Young of most species learn solely by observing adults. For example, meerkat adults teach their pups how to eat a venomous scorpion: they will remove the stinger and help the pup learn how to handle the creature.
Despite this altruistic behaviour, meerkats sometimes kill young members of their group. Subordinate meerkats have been seen killing the offspring of more senior members in order to advance their own offsprings' positions.
Meerkats have been known to engage in social activities, including what appear to be wrestling matches and foot races.
Thankyou for your comments
PaulH, cataclysta, JORAPAVI, CENT-TRETZE, haraprasan, pierrefonds, angybone, Silke, Jamesp, eqshannon, nglen, valy67, sranjan, jtkerb, drchoneydew has marked this note useful
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- [2007-08-31 1:46]
what a great shot, this brought a smile to my face! Great timing, composition, detail in his fur and DOF, but i really like the light and reflection in his eyes...it brings life to this shot.
Very well done.
What a superb compo.Great sharp, colours, POV and details.TFS.
Ha Ha Ha Funny photo. Great portrait. Nice moment, good shrpnes, nice buckground
Original y simpática toma, muy expresiva con gran nitidez y detalle, que tengas un buen fin de semana. Saludos
Hello friend Joe:
To part(report) of saying that it is an extraordinarily well made photography, I remain annihilated of the capacity of technical and professional knowledge that you contribute with your documented notes. Not only this, also you have the amiability and find the time to criticize, to consider and to inform the photos that I publish.
You are brilliant(genial) and I am grateful for it to you infinitely.
PS. Please from now on do to me the favor of treating myself as you and not of you. Thank you.
Looks as if the meerkat is making faces on us. He He He. Nice capture with excellent details and mood. Thanks a lot for sharing.
on dirait que ce petit animal c'est pris au jeu des grimaces et de la photo.
un tres joli et bon portrait.
A nice image of the meerkat, the photo has a good composition, sharpness and nice colors. Thanks for sharing.
That's hilarious! I love it!
Wonderful timing here to catch a great moment. Great title! ha ha
I love the light in his eye! Good shot!
nice capture, liked the pov and the composition, image is sharp, natural colour tones, you got a good funny pose here,
tfs & regards
- [2007-08-31 7:01]
Fascinating notes, Joe! (and a most amusing title)
superb capture with a very fine composition (difficult with these animals and their slender shapes!
- [2007-08-31 7:24]
I have just got back in from a very boring conference in Newmarket - The title and photograph brought a smile to my face!
Great pose and wonderful detail - the eyes and fur are excellent.
More notes than I have time, but super shot of the mammal of which I have not heard. Very clear, sharp and all essential points.
Very sharp and detailed.
- [2007-09-01 10:07]
Hi Joe. As paul said this has made me smile tonight. great detail in the fur. with warm colours. very well done .TFS great notes too. Nick
- [2007-09-02 0:46]
Hello Joe !
What a cute an funny picture ! I love the pose of the Suricate, with the tongue stretched out ! :-) Made me smile ! Excellent details, beautiful composition and POV, and BG is blurred enough tho make the Suricate stand out nicely. Very well done !
Hello Joe Kellard,
This was a funny shot in the thumbnail but with enlargement it has show the finer details of this creature. Excellent notes & TFS.
Regards-Dr Subhash Ranjan,MD
This is ADORABLE!! Just logged on to Trek this morning and saw this and sOOooo cracked up! LOVE IT The Bokeh background muted as it is along with the detailed fur just helps to POP out the pink of the tongue not to mention EYE CONTACT Lighting is superb; definitely TREK PERFECT