Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Ant and the Aardvark, er, um Anteater

   My apologies to my reader(s) about the long drought of blog material.  Many people I know would say this was just a time to gather information with which to wow my readers with; this however, is not the case.  Moving, class, and money have all gotten in the way of actually sharing points to ponder with the world at large.  Hopefully, when I get my laptops repaired, or my desktop close enough to a wifi station to access the internet, the posts will take on some sort of rhythm and actually combine to make some kind of tangible, coherent thought phase. I wouldn't hold my breath.

     I have taken some constructive criticism from one semi-loyal reader who possesses the attention span of a gerbil.  With that in mind, I will try and make these nature musings more curt and to the point with brevity.  Again, I wouldn't hold my breath.

      Edentates have always fascinated me, and anyone interested in life should look into their habits and lifestyles.   They are one of the larger enigmas in the fossil record due to their lack of teeth.  The great thing about studying mammalian fossils is that the teeth are the hardest part of the organism, and therefore more likely to become fossilized.  The beauty of that luck is that mammalian teeth are extremely diagnostic.  Whole species and some genera have been classed based on teeth alone.  Anteaters have no teeth.  Their skull ends with a long bony tube that holds their tongue.  So the anteater fossil record is pretty sparse.  That is not what I want to tell you today.  I want to clear up a little misunderstanding that toy companies, among many others have about anteaters and aardvarks.

      I like odd things, and this will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me.  So I went looking for a plush anteater.  I found two, one is huge, for stuffed animal proportions.  He is about two feet long, grey with the signature black stripe across his side.  The tag in his ear is filled with information regarding "The Anteater." This information includes habitat, diet, etc.  This larger anteater follows the normal studies of the Anteater:  South and Central America, ants, grubs, etc., one pup that rides on its mothers back for nearly a year, and all that other cute cuddly information that one needs to know when purchasing a plus 22" anteater.

Large anteater Plush Toy

     I bought a smaller one as well, to put on my desk at work. Same body style, about half the size, this one is brown instead of grey.  The tag conveniently contains information on "The Aardvark."  African savanna habitat, nearly the same diet though, young, etc.  So now everyone that buys this particular plush toy will receive the wrong idea of the Anteater, or Aardvark.

small "aardvark" plush toy 

     This confusion stems back to the 60s when the DePatie-Freleng team added The Ant and the Aardvark  to their Pink Panther lineup.

Screen Capture from the DVD 

     Innocently enough, all the write-ups reveal that this show follows the life of an "aardvark" chasing an ant.   No harm, no foul, right?  In this case, and I am not expecting great biology from cartoon maker, there is a bit to be confused about.  Do not get me wrong I absolutely love this cartoon and Depatie-Freleng works in general, but this has got some people screwed up in the general knowledge sector.  I present to you the following:
Giant Anteater
The Aardvark

    Which of these guys does Aardvark most resemble?  Exactly.  Arguments may be made that he is an amalgam of both species.  He has the anteater's long snout, but is not as furry, perhaps he is covered in (blue?) coarse fur. Most of the cartoons take place in Africa, or a savannah like setting. He is drawn with teeth, but he can also talk so that might be irrelevant.  The list goes on and on of differences between the two, aardvarks are nocturnal, anteaters are not. Aardvarks have teeth, anteaters do not. Except that one from Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital.

Screenshot from Kingdom Hospital

      The toothed God-like anteater of Stephen King's psyche is not that made up. Horror film enthusiast will remember the human form of this anteater was a pale individual with an Ankh necklace. This is pretty interesting because there is a group of individuals who propose that the Egyptian God Set was depicted as, at least, part aardvark.

     There are so many other things to consider when studying both species here, but I hope this short primer will reveal that the confusion over anteaters and aardvarks goes way back and is prominent in even successful ventures.  The confusion expounds exponentially when arboreal anteaters are introduced to the discussion as well as "common" names given to species around the world, "antbear" is one that falls on the aardvark as well as the anteater. Even the binomial nomenclature can sometimes be a misnomer. The giant anteater is known as the Myrmecophaga tridactyla, Greek for "three-fingered ant-eater" drawing on its prominent "three toes."  The anteaters have five digits on each foot.

     All this being said, I hope that it does not take the magic out of cartoons, or a movie, or anything else.  What I hope it does is that it might draw your attention to things as they are not really being what they are, and that if something seems strange to look into it farther.  I have found that most times, the truth that I find is many times more fascinating than any of the mistakes that are represented.

   I would like to leave you with what started me on this strange, pointless quest: here is the pilot episode of The Ant and the Aardvark: (The Ant and the Anteater, just doesn't roll off the tongue with the same ring, so kudos to Depatie and Freleng.)

1 comment:

  1. I didn't even know I wanted to know that. This is still a pretty long post though.