Background Info

Meerkats are specially adapted for life in the harsh desert environment.

Meerkats are small and lean. These characteristics allow the animal to thrive with limited food sources.

Around its eyes, the meerkat has dark rings to reduce the glare of the bright desert sun. It relies heavily on keen eyesight to search for prey and to look for oncoming predators.

A meerkat can stand erect on its hind legs, an unusual ability in a mongoose. Its tail acts like a third leg, enabling a sturdy stance.

Questions

1. 

Why does a meerkat have black rings around its eyes?

Show Answer

Black absorbs light rather than reflecting it. This reduces the harsh glare of the desert sun.

2. 

How does the meerkat's dark fur act as a "solar panel"?

Show Answer

Dark colors absorb light and heat. Facing its dark belly toward the sun, a meerkat can warm up quickly in the desert's chilly morning temperatures.

Fast Facts

  • A meerkat can open and close its ears to keep out sand while digging for prey.
  • A meerkat can spot a predator, such as an eagle, from more than 300 meters (1,000 feet) away.
  • A meerkat has a strong tail that can function like a third leg.
  • The eyes of a meerkat have thin, broad pupils. These allow it to see a wide view without turning its head.
  • The markings on a meerkat's back allow it to blend in with desert rocks and brush.

For Further Exploration

Vocabulary

Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry

adapt

Verb

to adjust to new surroundings or a new situation.

characteristic

Noun

physical, cultural, or psychological feature of an organism, place, or object.

desert

Noun

area of land that receives no more than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of precipitation a year.

Encyclopedic Entry: desert

environment

Noun

conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.

erect

Verb

to build or raise.

food

Noun

material, usually of plant or animal origin, that living organisms use to obtain nutrients.

Encyclopedic Entry: food

predator

Noun

animal that hunts other animals for food.

prey

Noun

animal that is hunted and eaten by other animals.

Credits

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Writer

Jeanne Wallace-Weaver, Educational Consultant

Editor

Anne Haywood, National Geographic Society

Producer

Alison Michel

National Geographic Program

Meerkats 3D

Sources

Meerkats 3D

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