Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index



Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Order: Carnivora
Family: Herpestidae
Genus: Suricata
Suricata suricatta

The meerkat is a small mammal (weighing about 2 lbs and 20 inches long) inhabiting all parts of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa.

It is carnivorous, consuming mostly insects but also other small mammals, and lives in colonies of up to 40 individuals. They hunt in groups and protect their young.

Meerkat calls have recently been noted to carry an element of linguistic arbitrariness, with particular calls representing the approach of snakes, birds of prey, or other predators. How this has evolved is not clear; however, it is a clear demonstration that arbitrariness is not solely related to human language, although no-one would claim that the calls of the meerkat are a true language.