The meerkat , otherwise known as the suricate, is a small, furry member of the Mongoose family (Herpestidae) that can stand upright. The creatures have round, fluffy bellies with smaller, more slender limbs. Their snouts are small and pointed, coming to a sharp tip at the animal’s black nose. It lives in the African Savanna grasslands in groups of twenty five to fifty. These groups are called mobs or manors. The female meerkat gives birth to two to five pups at a time, which are born hairless and unable to see. The life expectancy for these pups is about twelve to fourteen years. The creatures live in close-knit webs of intertwining tunnels located ...view middle of the document...
One interesting adaptation of the meerkat is its astonishing immunity to spider and scorpion venoms. This allows it to eat a multitude of spiders and scorpions, thereby keeping the populations of these Arachnida in check. Another adaptation is the meerkat’s sharp, non-retractable claws perfect for foraging and digging in the sand. While keeping watch, meerkats must stare into the bright Savanna sun for extended periods of time; the creatures have developed dark circles around their eyes to minimize glare. The eyes themselves are frontward facing and offer superb peripheral vision, allowing the meerkat to easily detect predators. Meerkats’ tails are very strong; the animals use them for balance while standing. They act as a sort of “third leg”. While digging, the meerkat is able to completely close its ears to keep out sand and debris.
Blending in is the meerkat’s specialty. Their tawny fur with silver sheen provides excellent camouflage given their sandy habitat, which glistens in the sun. In addition, meerkats band together to confuse and scare off predators, forming one, massive, furry beast. Each meerkat fluffs up its fur and hisses, creating quite a fearsome spectacle. It is hard for a predator to pick out an individual meerkat when the whole group is so tightly packed together.
Currently the meerkat population is at a stable 500,000. Living- limiting factors to the meerkat population include eagles, hawks, and foxes. Just as the meerkat keeps the scorpion and spider populations from exploding out of control, so the predators of the meerkat do for it. Nonliving limiting factors include deforestation and use of Savanna grasslands for grazing livestock. These practices gradually disturb and destroy parts of the meerkat’s habitat, limiting the range in which it can safely survive.
THE JACKAL BERRY TREE
The Jackal Berry Tree, otherwise known as the African ebony tree, grows in the African Savanna grasslands. It is a member of the family Ebenacae. This slow growing tree has a dark, wide trunk (up to eighteen feet in diameter!) that is characterized by large, vertical grooves. Standing tall at fifteen to eighteen feet, the Jackal Berry tree has a large, full canopy of muted green leaves, which have an elliptical shape and can be nearly six inches in length. These canopies provide some of the small amount of shade that exists in the flat, endless landscape of the Savanna.
The Jackal Berry Tree goes into bloom in the dry season, sporting beautiful grey-white flowers with tiny hairs on them. The tree gets its name from its berries, which start out bright yellow and then turn purple when they become ripe. The berries grow only during the wet season. Only the female Jackal Berry Trees have the ability to produce fruits. They are the shape of dates, about one inch in diameter. The seeds of these fruits have been found in the dung of jackal, indicating that the jackal consumes the berries. This is how the tree got...