The Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) is a large mammal. It is in the Pilosa order, which is the same order as the Sloth. It is also known as the Ant Bear.
The Giant Anteater has long, greyish-black fur with white flecks. It has white front legs, with a band of black across its ankles (or wrists). Its back legs are black. It has a grey head with a long, wide black line and a long, thin white line along its side, from mid-stomach, under its ear, and through its eye. Its head is elongated, with a thick neck, and a long, tubular snout (nose). At the end of the snout is a small mouth (with no teeth) and small nostrils (nose holes for breathing). It has a bushy, brown tail, and long front claws. It has small ears and eyes, with poor eyesight. However, it has an excellent sense of smell.
Tridactyla means three toes (or fingers), but the Giant Anteater has five toes on each foot. Four toes on the front foot have claws. It walks on its front knuckles, similar to the ape, especially the gorilla, orangutan, and chimpanzee. The hind (back) feet have claws on all five toes, and walk plantigrade (flat-footed, like humans).
It grows to 182-217 centimetres (72-86 inches) in length. Its long, thin tongue measures about 60 centimetres (24 inches).
It is native to Central America and South America, in countries from Honduras to northern Argentina. It prefers grasslands and rain forests.
The Giant Anteater is terrestrial, living on the ground, whereas the Sloth and other anteaters live in trees (they are arboreal). It rests and sleeps in thick forested areas.
It can be both diurnal, active during the day, or nocturnal, active at night. It is a good swimmer (but it does not have webbed feet).
It is insectivorous – it eats insects – especially termites and ants, as well as beetles and honeybees. It forages in open areas. It uses its claws to dig them up, and then it uses its long, sticky tongue to collect the insects. Its tongue has backward-curved papillae with sticky saliva.
Its predators include jaguars and pumas.
It is mostly solitary.
The female is pregnant for about 190 days before giving birth to a single live young, called a pup. The pup is born with its eyes closed and opens them after about 6 days. The mother carries her pup on her back. They communicate with sharp whistles. The pup leaves its mother after about 10 months.
The Giant Anteater lives, on average, for about 16 years in captivity.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM