Linzey, Donald W. Wytheville Community College, Wytheville, Virginia.
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A nocturnal, burrowing, insectivorous, piglike mammal (Orycteropus afer) in the order Tubulidentata. The order Tubulidentata contains a single family, Orycteropodidae, and a single extant aardvark species, Orycteropus afer. Aardvarks occur throughout Africa south of the Sahara, wherever suitable habitat exists. In previous classifications, aardvarks and the fossil tubulidentates were assigned to the now-invalid order known as Edentata and were considered closely related to ungulates. However, recent data from mitochondrial and nuclear genes support a relationship among aardvarks, elephant shrews (family Macroscelididae), paenungulates (hyraxes, sirenians, and proboscideans), and golden moles (family Chrysochloridae). These ecologically divergent adaptive types probably originated in Africa; the molecular evidence implies that they may have arisen there from a common ancestor that existed in the Cretaceous Period, when Africa was isolated from other continents. The members of the order Tubulidentata show the results of an extreme adaptation for burrowing and feeding on small food items (mainly termites). See also: Adaptation (biology); Africa; Edentata; Mammalia; Tubulidentata
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