Download This Sample
This sample is exclusively for KidsKonnect members!
To download this worksheet, click the button below to signup for free (it only takes a minute) and you'll be brought right back to this page to start the download!
Sign Me Up
A small, gregarious, burrowing mammal, a meerkat (Suricata suricatta) from the mongoose family Herpestidae, is native to South Africa. Currently listed as a least concerned species by the IUCN, a meerkat exhibits altruistic behaviors within its colony.
See the fact file below for more information on the meerkat or alternatively, you can download our 23-page Meerkat worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
ETYMOLOGY AND TAXONOMY
- Meerkats got their name from the Dutch term for a kind of monkey, which in turn originates from the Old High German mericazza, combining the words meer (‘lake’) and kat (‘cat’).
- The name was used to describe small mammals inhabiting South Africa from 1801 onwards, after the Dutch colonizers utilized the name when referring to burrowing animals.
- In 1776, German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber defined a meerkat from the Cape of Good Hope, proposing its scientific name Viverra suricatta. Its generic name, Suricata, was given by Anselme Gaetan Desmarest in 1804.
- In 1905, Oldfield Thomas and Harold Schwann initially used its present scientific name, Suricata suricatta.
- Unlike the other species under the mongoose family Herpestidae, meerkats possess slender faces and bodies, tiny circular ears, short legs, and long tapering tails. Their little, rounded heads have a pointed, short muzzle that does not have a prominent stop. Their ears are set very low on both sides of the head, compared to viverrids, which have ears that are longer and stand more erect.
- The meerkat is a small herpestid, reaching only an average of 1.61 lbs for males and 1.58 lbs for females. Its long limbs give it a body length of about 10 to 14 in and a tail length of 7 to 10 in.
- Just like any other mongoose species, the meerkat’s tail is not bushy; it is rather long and thin and diminishes to a black or reddish colored tip. It utilizes its tail to balance when standing upright.
- Its face is brown, having eyes with black patches around them, which aid in deflecting the sun’s glare. When digging, its small ears close to keep sand from entering. It also has a binocular vision, a wide peripheral range, and depth perception.
- At the tip of each “finger” is a non-retractable, sturdy, 0.8-in long, crescent-shaped claw used for digging underground burrows and for foraging. These claws, along with their compact back legs, help meerkats climb trees.
- Meerkats sport a fawn-colored coat, usually with hints of gray, tan, or brown with a silver tint. They also have short parallel stripes on their backs, outlining the base of the tail to the shoulders. Each meerkat has a unique coat pattern and its underside has no markings, although the belly is slightly covered with hair, which reveals the meerkat’s black skin underneath. This mammals uses this area to absorb heat while standing on its back legs, usually during dawn after cold desert nights.
- Meerkats are little burrowing mammals, inhabiting large underground burrows with a number of entrances, which they leave only during daytime. They are very social, living in colonies, known as a “clan”, “gang”, or “mob”, having an average of 20 to 30 members.
- Meerkats in the same clan regularly groom each other to deepen social bonds. Alpha pairs often mark subordinates of the group using their scents to impose their authority. This is usually followed by the subordinates grooming the alphas in return and licking their faces. This behavior is also seen when group members are reunited after being separated. The majority of the meerkats in a group are all offspring of the alpha pair.
- They also possess altruistic behavior within their colonies; at least one meerkat stands lookout while the rest of the gang looks for food or play, to warn them of approaching dangers When a predator is seen, the sentry meerkat produces a warning bark, and the other members run and hide in bolt holes scattered in their territory. Once the threat is gone, this meerkat will stop signalling to let the others know that it is safe to emerge from hiding.
- Meerkats look after the young members. Females that never gave birth often lactate to feed the alpha pair’s offspring, while the alpha female is away. They also guard the young from threats, sometimes risking their own lives. On warning of danger and if retreating underground cannot be an option, the babysitter meerkat gathers all the young and lies on top of them.
- There are also instances when subordinate meerkats are seen killing young members of their colony in order to improve their own offspring’s position.
- Meerkats also participate in social activities, such as wrestling matches and foot races. They also allot a portion of their burrow with the yellow mongoose and ground squirrel, which they do not compete with for resources.
HABITAT AND DIET
- Meerkats live in southwestern Botswana, western and northern Namibia, northern and western South Africa; the distribution rarely reaches southwestern Angola.
- They reside in stony areas with little woody vegetation, usually savannahs, open plains, and rocky areas near dry rivers.
- Meerkats are generally insectivores, but they also prey on lizards, snakes, scorpions, spiders, plants, eggs, small mammals, millipedes, centipedes, and even small birds. They are slightly resistant to specific venoms.
- Since meerkats lack space for body fat storage, foraging for food is a daily essential.
- Young meerkats start searching for food when they reach a month old. An older member of the clan acts as the pup’s tutor.
- Meerkats reach sexual maturity at the age of one and can give birth to one to five pups in a litter, with three pups being the average.
- They are iteroparous, meaning they produce offspring in successive cycles and survive over multiple seasons.
- Alpha pairs usually have the power to reserve the right to mate and kill any young not its own, to make sure that their children have the best chance of survival. These pairs may also kick out the mothers of the unwanted offsprings.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the meerkat across 23 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Meerkat worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the meerkat (Suricata suricatta) from the mongoose family Herpestidae, which is native to South Africa. Currently listed as a least concerned species by the IUCN, a meerkat exhibits altruistic behaviors within its colony.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Meerkat Facts
- Meet a Meerkat
- Label the Parts
- Fascinating, Fury Facts
- Meerkat Wiki
- Growing Up a Meerkat
- Meerkat Mapping
- Meerkat Subspecies
- It’s a Meerkat Thing
- Cat-Like Mammals
- Economic Importance
Link/cite this page
If you reference any of the content on this page on your own website, please use the code below to cite this page as the original source.
Link will appear as Meerkat Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, December 4, 2020
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.