- Genus/Species: Myrmecophaga tridactyla
- Conservation Status: Threatened
- Location: Throughout the Southern Hemisphere
Elongated Snout, Long Sticky Tongue
There are different species of anteaters. These include the giant anteater, the collared anteater, the silky anteater, the spiny anteater and the echidna which is native to Australia. Anteater habitats include dry tropical forests, rainforests, grasslands, and savannas. The giant anteater inhabits Central and South America and is found in forests, jungles and even the lower mountain regions. The anteater’s body is long and slender. Its coat is a coarse, dense fur with a gray coloring and a broad, diagonal black stripe. It is an odd looking animal, but every part of this animal's body is built for the life it leads.
Anteaters vary in size according to their species, and may be between 3 and 7 feet in length. Their weight can be anywhere between 40 to 88 lbs- if you want to compare weights, an average 5 year old boy weighs around 40 lbs, while an average 13 year old weighs around 88 lbs. Giant anteaters hunt for food at night and sleep as much as 15 hours a day. They do not have teeth. Instead, they use their long, sticky tongues, which can reach as much as 2 feet in length, to catch insects for food. Although they eat about 30,000 insects a day, anteaters only spend a few minutes feeding at any one ant nest or termite mound, removing only a few thousand insects from each. When threatened, the anteater raises up on its hind limbs, hissing, and its heavily clawed forelimbs are extended, ready to do battle.
Giant anteaters are becoming quite rare due to habitat destruction as well as being captured by humans. Numbers have been greatly reduced within their usual range within Central America. This is sad because anteaters play an important role in maintaining insect populations.
Did You Know?
- Anteaters have a powerful sense of smell, 40 times that of humans.
- Anteaters use their claws to rip open concrete-hard termite and ant mounds.
- An anteater’s claws are so long that when the anteater walks, it treads on the sides of its paws to avoid wear and tear. It cannot run.
- The anteater’s tail has a hairless portion on the underside for gripping branches. It is often used as a fifth limb for climbing.