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Giant Anteater

Myrmecophaga tridactyla

About the Giant Anteater

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Geographic Range:

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Class: Mammalia
Order: Pilosa
Family: Myrmecophagidae
Genus:  Myrmecophaga
Species: tridactyla

The giant anteater has small eyes and ears, a long snout, and a bushy tail. It's typically brown with white and black stripes. Its tongue can elongate to approximately 2 feet in order to capture prey. The giant anteater is not aggressive, but when cornered it will defend itself with the 4-inch claws of its forepaws.

Anteater Facts

Appearance:

Giant anteaters are a relatively short animal with a long snout and bushy tail. They have small eyes and ears. They are a brownish grey except for a long triangular black patch from their chest to just behind their shoulder. Their tongue is 2-foot long, thin and sticky. They walk on their knuckles as to not harm their 4-inch claws.

Size:

Weight: 40 to 140 pounds
Length: 7 feet from tip of the snout to end of the tail 

Diet:
Giant anteaters use their keen sense of smell to locate termite mounds and ant hills.  They then use their long claws to crack open hills and mounds in search of their prey. Using its long, thick, saliva-coated tongue, a single anteater can eat up to 35,000 insects per day. Anteaters never destroy an ant’s nest; this way they can return later to eat more.

Reproduction & Gestation:

Giant anteaters have no consistent breeding season; however, they usually will breed once a year. After a 190-day gestation period, the female gives birth to one offspring, which resembles a smaller-sized adult anteater. The newborn will cling to its mother's back for the first six months. Since their coloration is similar, this provides camouflage for the offspring and added bulk to the mother. Sexual maturity is reached around 2 years of age.

Behavior:

Giant anteaters are generally solitary animals. Most communication occurs between young and their mothers or during fighting. Normally giant anteaters are not aggressive, but when threatened they are fierce fighters. They will stand on their hind legs using their tail for balance and slash at the threat with their 4-inch claws. They sleep for around 15 hours a day in hollowed out depressions, using their long thick tail as a blanket. Giant anteaters are also good swimmers and will use their long snout like a snorkel.

Habitat/Range:

Giant anteaters are found in the rainforest, dry forest, savannah habitats and open grasslands. Their range is from Honduras to Bolivia.

Median Life Expectancy:

11 years for females; 14 years for males

Threats in the Wild:

Giant anteaters are listed as vulnerable, with a decreasing population. The main threat to the species is loss of habitat due to human activity and wildfires. They also fall victim to vehicles and dogs. In some areas they are hunted for food, commercial uses, or because they're viewed as pests. Giant anteaters are taken for pets or for illegal trade in some parts of their range. Jaguars and pumas also prey on giant anteaters.

Fun Facts:
Anteaters’ body temperature is generally between 90 and 91 degrees Fahrenheit, one of the lowest of all placental mammals.