Meerkat Meer"kat (m[=e]r"k[a^]t), n. [D.] (Zo["o]l.) A South African carnivore ({Suricata suricata}, formerly {Cynictis penicillata}), allied to the ichneumons, having a lemurlike face and only four toes; called also {yellow mongoose} and {suricate}. [Also spelled {mierkat}.] [1913 Webster]

While his compatrioits scuffle about in the sand for delicious scorpions or fat, tasty mice, one meerkat stands alone, bolt upright on an exposed perch, scanning for hawks with dark eyes wide, ready to call out at the first sign of danger. Like other such guards in the animal kingdom, these endearingly vulnerable meerkat sentinels have long impressed biologists as true altruists -- creatures willing to forgo food and brave danger to protect others. Now a study in the current Science suggests that these beasts may not be such adorable heroes after all. Researchers have discovered that meerkats abandon their hunting to act as guards only when their bellies are good and full. And they appear to do so, not as an act of noble daring, but because by being the first to see a predator, they can be sure of being the first down a hole and out of harm's way. Standing guard, researchers concluded, may be the safest thing to do once a meerkat has had enough to eat. . . . Even the adorable meerkat may yet redeem itself as a bit of an altruist. Although being a sentinel may itself not entail great risk, it is hard to imagine a selfish reason for their giving a shout of warning before dashing for cover. . . . --Carol Kaesuk Yoon (N. Y. Times, June 8, 1999 p. F3) [PJC]

The Collaborative International Dictionary of English. 2000.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • meerkat — (n.) late 15c., monkey, from Du. meerkat monkey (related to O.H.G. mericazza), apparently from meer lake + kat cat. But Cf. Hindi markat, Skt. markata ape, which might serve as a source of a Teutonic folk etymology, even though the word was in… …   Etymology dictionary

  • meerkat — ► NOUN ▪ a small southern African mongoose. ORIGIN Dutch, sea cat : the name originally applied to a kind of monkey, perhaps with the notion from overseas …   English terms dictionary

  • meerkat — [mir′kat΄, mēr′kat΄] n. [Afrik < Du, name of type of monkey, lit., sea cat] any of various mongooses of SW Africa, esp. a small, grayish one (Suricata suricatta) that lives in colonies underground …   English World dictionary

  • Meerkat — This article is about the mammal. For other uses, see Meerkat (disambiguation). Meerkats redirects here. For the 2008 British film, see The Meerkats. Lake cat redirects here. It is not to be confused with Cat Lake. Meerkat …   Wikipedia

  • MeerKAT — KAT 7 Organization NRF Department of Science and Technology[1] SKA South Africa Project Location Northern Cape, South Africa Coordinates …   Wikipedia

  • meerkat — /mear kat/, n. suricate. [D: lit., monkey, appar. = meer see (see MERE2) + kat CAT] * * * or suricate colonial species (Suricata suricatta) of the mongoose family (Herpestidae). It is a burrowing carnivore found in southwestern Africa that… …   Universalium

  • meerkat — surikata statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas taksono rangas rūšis atitikmenys: lot. Suricata suricata angl. grey meerkat; meerkat; slender tailed meerkat; suricate vok. Erdmännchen; Surikate rus. суриката pranc. suricate ryšiai: platesnis… …   Žinduolių pavadinimų žodynas

  • meerkat — mierkat mierkat n. (Zool.) A South African mongooselike viverrine ({Suricata suricata}) having a lemurlike face and only four toes; called also {suricate}. [Also spelled {meerkat}.] Syn: meerkat. [WordNet 1.5] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • meerkat — UK [ˈmɪə(r)ˌkæt] / US [ˈmɪrˌkæt] noun [countable] Word forms meerkat : singular meerkat plural meerkats a small South African animal that has grey fur with black marks …   English dictionary

  • meerkat — [ mɪəkat] noun a small southern African mongoose. [Suricata suricatta (grey meerkat) and other species.] Origin C18: from S. Afr. Du., from Du., appar. from meer sea + kat cat …   English new terms dictionary

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