suricate
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:

  • suricate — [ syrikat ] n. m. • 1765 surikate; mot d une langue d Afrique du Sud ♦ Mammifère carnivore (viverridés) d Afrique australe, voisin de la mangouste. ● suricate nom masculin Petite mangouste omnivore des zones semi arides d Afrique australe.… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • suricate — [soor′i kāt΄] n. [< Fr suricate or Ger surikate < native name in S Africa] a small, four toed, burrowing carnivore (Suricata suricatta) of S Africa, of the same family (Viverridae) as the civet and mongoose …   English World dictionary

  • Suricate — Suricate, so v.w. Surikate …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • suricate — s. m. [Zoologia] Mamífero carnívoro da África do Sul, vizinho do gato de algália …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • Suricate — Suricate …   Wikipédia en Français

  • suricate — 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

  • suricate — 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

  • suricate — suricat su ri*cat, suricate su ri*cate(s[umsc] r[i^]*k[a^]t), n. [F. surikate, from the native name in South Africa.] (Zool.) A South African mongooselike viverrine ({Suricata suricatta} or {Suricata tetradactyla}) having a lemurlike face and… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • suricate — /soor i kayt /, n. a small, burrowing South African carnivore, Suricata suricatta, of a grayish color with dark bands across the back, related to the mongooses and having social behavior similar to that of prairie dogs. [1775 85; earlier surikate …   Universalium

  • suricate — noun The meerkat, a member of the mongoose family …   Wiktionary

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