Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by WonderTeam. WonderTeam Wonders, “Does a warthog really have warts?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, WonderTeam!
Warthog. What do you think of when you hear that word? All sorts of images probably pop into your mind. You might think of a beloved animated character or an animal you’ve seen at the zoo. You might even picture the grasslands and savannas of Africa, where warthogs live.
Warthogs (Phacochoerus africanus) are related to pigs. Their large heads are shaped a bit like a shovel, giving them a very fierce look. Warthogs also have sharp lower canine teeth that look like straight tusks. They grow up to six inches long. Older warthogs also have curved upper tusks that grow up to two feet long!
Warthogs also sport a unique hairdo. They’re mostly bald, with just sparse patches of hair here and there. Many warthogs do have a thicker mane along their backs, though.
And, of course, there are the “warts” on their heads. The “warts” that give warthogs their name are actually protective bumps. They store fat and help protect warthogs during fights. Sometimes, males will fight for mates. During these battles, the protective “warts” help to cushion blows.
Although warthogs might look rough and tough, they usually try to avoid fights. But there are many predators who would like to snack on warthogs. They have to watch out for lions, cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas. Luckily, warthogs can run very fast. How fast? Well, they’re not as fast as cheetahs. But warthogs can run up to 35 miles per hour!
When they sense a predator nearby, most warthogs will run away. Some might dive for the nearest underground aardvark burrow. Warthogs also adapt to new threats, which has kept them off the endangered species list so far.
For example, most warthogs like to graze on plants, grass, and berries during the early morning and early evening. But they will hunt for food at night if they live in an area where they are hunted by people. They often use their large snouts to smell out and then dig up roots and plant bulbs.
Male warthogs are called boars. Female warthogs are known as sows. They communicate with their babies—called piglets—with a wide variety of grunts, groans, growls, squeals, and snorts. A family group of warthogs is called a sounder.
Warthogs share a special relationship with a bird called the oxpecker. Oxpeckers ride on warthogs, eating tiny bugs that like to live on the warthogs. This provides food for the oxpeckers and constant cleaning for the warthogs. This friendship really pays off for everyone involved!
Standards: NGSS.LS1.A, NGSS.LS1.C, NGSS.LS2.C, NGSS.LS2.D, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1