Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla)  

Class: Mammalia
Order: Xenarthra
Family:    Myrmecophagidae
Size:    Length: 36 to 48 inches (91 to 122 cm)
Weight: 40 to 86 pounds (18 to 39 kg)
Diet: Ants, termites and other insects, as well as fruit
Distribution: Mexico, Central America and northern Argentina
Young:  1 every 1 to 2  years
Animal Predators:  Jaguars and pumas
IUCN Status: Vulnerable
Terms: No special terms
Lifespan: Up to 26 years in captivity

 

Facts/Trivia:

       They have a tongue that stretches up to two feet long.

       Giant anteaters tend to be nomadic.

       They are good swimmers.

       They sleep up to 15 hours each day.

       Their sense of smell is 40 times stronger than that of humans

 

Description

Giant anteaters have a beautiful brown or grey coat with white-bordered black stripes along each shoulder. Their tail is long and bushy and they have extremely long claws, useful for tearing into termite mounds as well as for self-defense. Their snout is long and narrow, enabling them to reach into holes. They have no teeth, but their tongue is sticky with tiny spines that help them scoop up as many as 30,000 ants or termites in one day. Their tongue muscles are very well-developed, allowing them to flick their tongue in and out of their mouth 150 to 160 times per minute. Because their claws are so long, anteaters walk on their front knuckles, tucking their claws up and out of the way.  Anteaters have small eyes and ears and, although their vision is weak, their hearing and sense of smell are excellent.

 

Habitat

These unique animals can be found from southern Mexico through Central America to northern Argentina, in a variety of habitats such as grasslands, swamps and forests.

  

Feeding Habits

Although their main diet is insects, anteaters occasionally eat fruit, and lick rainwater water from plants and grass for moisture.

 

Reproduction

There is no established breeding season for giant anteaters. Gestation lasts approximately six months and results in a single newborn, weighing four to five pounds. Young giant anteaters look exactly like a miniature version of their parents. Babies nurse for up to two months. Although the playful baby can walk quite efficiently and quickly by four weeks, the protective mother may carry it on her back for six to 11 months. The youngster remains with the mother until it is two years of age, or until she becomes pregnant again and gives birth. Giant anteaters reach full adult size at approximately two years of age.

  

Behaviour

Giant anteaters tend to be solitary, only pairing up for the purpose of mating. They are not aggressive towards each other and will ignore other anteaters in the same territory. When threatened, they run away rather than fight. Despite their powerful digging talents, they do not dig burrows, but sleep in a secluded area, hidden from sight. Giant anteaters are the only anteaters to be active by day, unless they are found living in areas where human population is dense, in which case they are active at night. They sleep at night curled up with the head tucked between the forelegs, and the tail wrapped around the body.

 

Conservation

Habitat destruction and hunting are the main threats to giant anteater populations. 

 

Sources

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/myrmecophaga/m._tridactyla$narrative.html

http://www.maiaw.com/anteater/

http://www.chaffeezoo.org/zoo/animals/giantAnteater.html

http://www.nature.ca/notebooks/english/giantant.htm

http://www.unicover.com/EA1BAMBI.HTM

http://www.redlist.org/search/details.php?species=14224

Giant Anteater Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US