Photo by Roberta StacyWhen a meerkat scents prey in the ground, they dig with their long claws, sending dry soil in the air.  Sometimes, where a hole may hide a rich reward, such as geckos, two meerkats may join forces.  With their excellent sense of smell meerkats can find food even when they are hiding underground!  They have a home of four square miles hunting a different area each day.  Each meerkat must find its own food, but they may share the task of capturing and eating a large prey item.  Meerkats are known for their daring diet in which they are able to kill and eat venomous snakes and scorpions without getting hurt!  They are immune to the venom.  Also, meerkats are able to survive without drinking water because they get the moisture that they need through eating roots, tubers, or fruits.  Meerkats mostly feed on things from the ground like insects, grubs, spiders, and millipedes.  But occasionally they will eat smaller animals, birds, rodents, reptiles, snails, or bulbous roots.  Meerkats are heterotrophic meaning that they don’t produce their own food.  Meerkats are also endothermic meaning that they are warm-blooded animals.  They forage regularly for these items, digging in soil and grass and overturning rocks.  Their animal diet consists of 82% insects, 7% arachnids, 3% centipedes, 3% millipedes, 2% reptiles, and 2% birds.  Captive meerkats will prey readily upon small mammals.  Therefore a meerkat is a great example of a carnivore.  Meerkats are an important link in the food web because they provide food for predators.  They also take many invertebrates acting as a control on their own prey populations. * Below:  This picture was taken at the Milwaukee County Zoo, where Sashie had just received her meal from the zookeepers.

Photo taken by Amanda Hustad (Sashie eating her food)



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