|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
|Occasionally I prefer to post a photo which is not a bird. This time a Meerkat.|
I made this portrait in the little zoo of Lagos in the Algarve, Portugal. On a cloudy day suddenly the sun came through and the whole group start sunbathing.
The Meerkat or Suricate, Suricata suricatta, is a small mammal belonging to the mongoose family. Meerkats live in all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, in much of the Namib Desert in Namibia and southwestern Angola, and in South Africa. A group of meerkats is called a "mob", "gang" or "clan". A meerkat clan often contains about 20 meerkats, but some super-families have 50 or more members. In captivity, meerkats have an average life span of 12–14 years, and about half this in the wild.
"Meerkat" is a loanword from Afrikaans. The name has a Dutch origin, but by misidentification. Dutch meerkat refers to the "guenon", a monkey of the Cercopithecus genus. The word "meerkat" is Dutch for "lake cat", but the suricata is not in the cat family, and neither suricatas nor guenons are attracted to lakes; the word possibly started as a Dutch adaptation of a derivative of Sanskrit markaţa मर्कट = "monkey", perhaps in Africa via an Indian sailor on board a Dutch East India Company ship. The traders of the Dutch East India Company were likely familiar with monkeys, but the Dutch settlers attached the name to the wrong animal at the Cape. The suricata is called stokstaartje = "little stick-tail" in Dutch.
The meerkat is a small diurnal herpestid (mongoose) weighing on average about 731 grams for males and 720 grams for females. Its long slender body and limbs give it a body length of 25 to 35 centimetres and an added tail length of 17 to 25 centimetres. Its tail is not bushy like all other mongoose species, but is rather long and thin and tapers to a black or reddish colored pointed tip. The meerkat uses its tail to balance when standing upright, as well as for signaling. Its face tapers, coming to a point at the nose, which is brown. The eyes always have black patches around them and it has small black crescent-shaped ears that can close to exclude soil when digging. Like cats, meerkats have binocular vision, a large peripheral range, depth perception, and eyes on the front of their faces.
At the end of each of a meerkat's "fingers" is a non-retractable, strong, 2 centimetres long, curved claw used for digging burrows and digging for prey. Claws are also used with muscular hindlegs to help climb trees. Meerkats have four toes on each foot and long slender limbs. The coat is usually fawn-colored peppered with gray, tan, or brown with a silver tint. They have short parallel stripes across their backs, extending from the base of the tail to the shoulders. The patterns of stripes are unique to each meerkat. The underside of the meerkat has no markings, but the belly has a patch which is only sparsely covered with hair and shows the black skin underneath. The meerkat uses this area to absorb heat while standing on its rear legs, usually early in the morning after cold desert nights.
Diet and foraging behaviour
Meerkats are primarily insectivores, but also eat lizards, snakes, scorpions, spiders, plants, eggs, small mammals, millipedes, centipedes and, more rarely, small birds. Meerkats are immune to certain types of venom, including the very strong venom of the scorpions of the Kalahari Desert, unlike humans. They have no excess body fat stores, so foraging for food is a daily need.
Meerkats forage in a group with one "sentry" on guard watching for predators while the others search for food. Sentry duty is usually approximately an hour long. A meerkat can dig through a quantity of sand equal to its own weight in just seconds. Baby meerkats do not start foraging for food until they are about 1 month old, and do so by following an older member of the group who acts as the pup's tutor. The meerkat standing guard makes peeping sounds when all is well. If the meerkat spots danger, it barks loudly or whistles.
Meerkats become sexually mature at about one year of age and can have one to five pups in a litter, with three pups being the most common litter size. Wild meerkats may have up to four litters per year. Meerkats are iteroparous and can reproduce any time of the year but most births occur in the warmer seasons. The pups are allowed to leave the burrow at three weeks old. When the pups are ready to emerge from the burrow, the whole clan of meerkats will stand around the burrow to watch. Some of the adolescents might try to show off so they can have more attention than the pups.
Gestation lasts approximately 11 weeks and the young are born within the underground burrow and are altricial (undeveloped). The young's ears open at about 15 days of age, and their eyes at 10–14 days. They are weaned around 49 to 63 days. They do not come above ground until at least 21 days of age and stay with babysitters near the burrow. After another week or so, they join the adults on a foraging party.
New meerkat groups are often formed by evicted females pairing with roving males.
If the members of the alpha group are relatives (this tends to happen when the alpha female dies and is succeeded by a daughter), they do not mate with each other and reproduction is by group females stray-mating with roving males from other groups; in this situation, pregnant females tend to kill and eat any pups born to other females.
Meerkats are small burrowing animals, living in large underground networks with multiple entrances which they leave only during the day. They are very social, living in colonies averaging 20–30 members. Animals in the same group regularly groom each other to strengthen social bonds. The alpha pair often scent-mark subordinates of the group to express their authority, and this is usually followed by the subordinates grooming the alphas and licking their faces. This behavior is also usually practiced when group members are reunited after a short period apart. Most meerkats in a group are all siblings or offspring of the alpha pair.
Meerkats demonstrate altruistic behavior within their colonies; one or more meerkats stand sentry while others are foraging or playing, to warn them of approaching dangers. When a predator is spotted, the meerkat performing as sentry gives a warning bark, and other members of the gang will run and hide in one of the many bolt holes they have spread across their territory. The sentry meerkat is the first to reappear from the burrow and search for predators, constantly barking to keep the others underground. If there is no threat, the sentry meerkat stops signaling and the others feel safe to emerge.
Meerkats also babysit the young in the group. They also protect the young from threats, often endangering their own lives. On warning of danger, the babysitter takes the young underground to safety and is prepared to defend them if the danger follows. If retreating underground is not possible, she collects all young together and lies on top of them.
Meerkat calls may carry specific meanings, with particular calls indicating the type of predator and the urgency of the situation. In addition to alarm calls, meerkats also make panic calls, recruitment calls, and moving calls. They chirrup, trill, growl, or bark, depending on the circumstances.
Source: Parts of Wikipedia
oldferret, Hotelcalifornia, Marco2010, phibau, CeltickRanger, jusninasirun, Pitoncle, waylim has marked this note useful
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Excellent portrait,sharpness and details are just amazing,wonderful colours and depth,beautiful expressive pose.
Thanks and best regards,
Brilliant portrait and very good sharpness ...Details are also useful ...Tfs
Regards ..LOVISH GARLANI
An excellent study of this Meercat. The detail in the face is great, even down to the grains of sand, a double highlight in the eye (due to flash I suspect, although it dosn't distract) the angle of head and expression on the face make it great.
TFS regards Bill.
- [2013-03-21 9:41]
Hi Peter,a beautiful portrait whit special details and a magic light to see all the hairs so well,great face too,a bit funny,i like it!Have a nice evening and thanks,Luciano
Ciao Peter, great portrait of cute creature, fine details, superb sharpness, wonderful natural colors and splendid light, very well done, my friend, ciao Silvio
- [2013-03-21 10:45]
Another great portrait,this time beautiful Meerkat.
Nice natural colours and excellent sharpness details.
Outstanding portrait of this Meercat.Excellent focus on subject and beautiful natural colour.I like its sharpness too.Every part of its body is clear and prominent,Well done.
Thanks for sharing,
Mooie scherpe opname met veel details
hij zit er lekker bij zo in het zonnetje
Weer eens wat anders
Ottimo primo piano di esemplare di Meerkat,fotografato con un’eccellente nitidezza e ottimi particolari belli i colori,molto bella bravo.
Grazie della condivisione
- [2013-03-21 13:50]
It's a splendid portrait. It seems difficult to make the same in the wild...
The colors remain natural despite flash, the sharpness is perfect and I like so much its lovely expression. Last detail : great reflect in the eye!
A great one, Philippe.
I see these animals on documentaries on the TV
and would love on day to see in true, you have
done a great portrait shot with a very fine POV
the Meerkat facing the beautiful light,
superbly focused with great sharpness and details,
I can say one of TN's most beautiful portrait
photos of a wild animal, TFS
- [2013-03-21 15:51]
Super sharp and excellent details. Congratulation. Saludos.
Boa noite Peter
Great portrait of this species.A proud pose.Excellent sharpness.Thank You.
Have a good weekend!
Excellent mugshot with so much details to be seen on this fine mammal. Lovely expression under superb exposure and well rendered tone.
- [2013-03-21 21:57]
Thinking Meerkat, good attitude of this lovely animal captured. They are very interesting species and some times funny too. good portrait. tfs. opps..no smiles left.
Great portrait with good composition, wonderful lighting and impressive sharpness.
- [2013-03-22 1:00]
very nice portrait of cute animals,great capture,regards..
- [2013-03-22 3:02]
- [2013-03-22 10:36]
In a typical pose you made a fine portrait of a Meercat. I think every aspect is great except the effect of sharpnening the fur on the face, which has made it look a little wirey. But this is a small criticism of what is otherwise a fine well composed imge.
Thanks and have a good weekend,
- [2013-03-22 17:43]
A wonderful closeup image of this cute little Meerkat. It appears to have been doing a little digging in the dirt from the looks of it's nose. Exceptional detail and beautiful colors. From it's pose it appears to be deep in thought. Great work!!
this is an excellent shot.. mood-wise and photography-wise.. both. from my very recent personal experience, i know about them.. so fond of sunlight. and the way they bask, is so cute! your this photograph, though is a close-up, still can reach completion.. it's not hard to imagine the rest of it's posture :)
look at the eye!
have a nice weekend
- [2013-03-22 23:55]
Its an outstanding portrait with great details and clarity ! I think you got more than an image here - you captured the expression and a spirited , intelligent face ! TFS Tina
- [2013-03-23 2:30]
Thanks for sharing this lovely portrait of a meerkat in thought...
Have a pleasant weekend,
Ciao Peter. The best light as possibile! Impressive focused eye and perfect details. TFS the cute one.
- [2013-03-23 22:55]
excellent portrait of this meerkat. The furs and whiskers are so sharp.
Excellent job in composing a special pose in good lighting.
the way you choose, the portrait, very good presentation!
a superb portrait of a Meerkat.
Excellent portrait,sharpness and details are just amazing,wonderful colour and depth,beautiful expression also.
- [2013-03-25 7:41]
what a wonderful portrait of this lovely meercat,
excellent sharpness for outstanding details,
beautiful lighting, composition !
Best regards !
Encore un splendide portrait ; il est cependant dommage que ce soit encore un animal de captivité.
A bientôt sur TN pour de nouvelles aventures.
- [2013-04-03 12:45]
Great to be here again and seeing some of you wonderful works. I won't comment them all by will for sure browse through all of them. Anyway, all of them are of great quality. This one particularly is very cute with such details and close up. I just want to reach out and brush away all the dust on its smiley face. The same smile like Timon in the Lion King.