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Description

The meerkat is a small diurnal herpestid (mongoose) weighing on average about 0.5 to 2.5 kilograms (1.1 to 5.5 lb). Its long slender body and limbs give it a body length of 35 to 50 centimetres (14 to 20 in) and an added tail length of around 25 centimetres (9.8 in).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 they have small black crescent-shaped ears. Like cats, meerkats have binocular vision, their eyes being on the front of their faces.

At the end of each of a meerkat’s “fingers” is a 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 peppered gray, tan, or brown with silver. 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.

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