The ear region of the aardvark, Orycteropus afer (Pallas, 1766), including the auditory ossicles, is described and illustrated in detail based on five museum specimens (one from the United States National Museum and the remainder from Carnegie Museum of Natural History). Comparisons are made with the few published ear regions of extinct orycteropids, the late Miocene Amphiorycteropus abundalufus (Lehmann et al., 2005) from Chad, and Amphiorycteropus gaudryi (Major, 1888) from Greece, as well as with the enigmatic Plesiorycteropus Filhol, 1895, from the Quaternary of Madagascar.
Orycteropus afer is considered to be the single living aardvark species, but as many as 18 poorly-defined subspecies are recognized across its sub-Saharan Africa range. The small sample studied here exhibits surprising morphological diversity for many features of the ear region, and some, but not all, differences fall along subspecific lines. The more striking differences concern the squamosal and alisphenoid epitympanic sinuses, the alisphenoid tympanic process, the post- and entoglenoid processes of the squamosal, and the anterior crus of the ectotympanic. The significance of these preliminary findings awaits future morphological and molecular studies on this unusual mammal.