Family: Cyclophagidae / Mymecophagidae
Range: The Anteater is an animal and is found mainly in Central and South America, where they choose tropical forests and the grasslands. They can be found from Southern Mexico, throughout Central America to east of South America, Uruguay and the northern Argentina. They are common middle-elevation habitats and in low land all through Costa Rica. The most commonly seen of Costa Rica’s three anteater species is the tree-dwelling lesser anteater. They can be seen in Santa Rosa national Park and several other National parks also. The giant anteater is restricted to the areas of Osa Peninsula. The cat sized silky anteater can be seen occasionally during the night.
Size: An anteater head and body can get a length from 6 to 49 inches (15 – 124 cm); tail length could be from 7 – 35 inches (18 to 89 cm).
Weight: It is weighing between 18 to 64 kg (40 to 140 lbs). The male anteater may exceed from 50 kg, females are 20% smaller than male.
Diet: The Anteater is carnivore, they eat insect such as ant, termites, insect larvae, beetles and sometime fruits. Giant anteater gets their requirement of water through licking wet vegetation. Giant Anteaters are known to eat up to 30,000 aunts or insects during a day. They break open ants nests and termite mounds with their clawed frontage feet and they also use their long sticky tongue to eat their prey.
Average life span: Average life span of an anteater is 14 years in the wild; however it can reach up to 26 years in captivity.
Habitat: Giant Anteaters inhabit deciduous forests, grasslands, and tropical rain forests of central to South America. They are introverted animals and are lively during the day. They can have a residence range up to 25 square kilo meters. However, it all depends on the availability of food.
Breeding/Reproduction: An anteater become sexually mature between the ages of 2-3 years; they tend to breed throughout the year but the breeding is seasonal in several parts. The gestation period is 180-190 days. A female is usually having one offspring per birth. They ride around on their mothers back for around 6 months but they continue to stay with their mother until she becomes pregnant again.
An Anteater is a mammal that belongs to the suborder Vermilingua which means “worm tongue” specie. They do not have teeth but they have a tongue that is 2 feet in length but only half inch in width. Its tongue is attached to the sternum where it can flicker up to 150 times per minute. When anteater is in feeding frenzy, their salivary glands secretes sticky saliva which coated the tongue. It would be easier for them to gather their food.
Anteater main diet consists of ants hence the name Anteater. But their sustenance also consists of termites and soft-bodied grubs. Anteaters don’t have teeth. When it eats, the chewing process will be aided by pebbles that it swallows as it eats insects. They have long sharp claws and aided them in their feeding process to open up anthill, termite colony and tree trunks. Then they would use their tongue to collect the insects as well as eggs and larvae.
There are 4 species of Anteaters. One is the Giant Anteater or Antbears (Myrmecophaga tridactyla). It measures to an average 7.9 feet. These kinds of anteaters are found mostly in Central and South America in Honduras to Northern part of Argentina and even as far as North Western Sonora in Mexico. It has a long and thin head with a large and bushy tail. Mostly they are greyish in colour with a black band with fringe of white. Another species is the Silky Anteater (Cyclopes didactylus). It is just about the size of a cat with an average of 14 inches in length and usually weighs less than 400 grams. Their main habitat is mostly in Central and South America. Usually they live in southern Mexico to Brazil, Venezuela and possibly Paraguay. The third specie of anteater is the Southern Tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla) or the Collared Anteater. It is just a medium sized anteater with an average length of 3.9 feet. They are mostly found in South America from Venezuela, Trinidad, Northern Argentina, Southern Brazil and Uruguay. The last is the Northern Tamandua (Tamandua mexicana). They have almost the dimension as the Southern Tamandua. They lived in Southern Mexico, Central America and to the edge of Northern Andes. It has a pale yellow fur with some patch of black that resembles a vest in shape.
There are some interesting facts about anteater. Their tongue can protrude more than 60 centimeters (2 ft) out of their mouth. Their sense of smell is forty times more than of a human. Giant Anteaters are one of only two mammals that do not have any teeth, even when they are fully grown adults, pangolins being the other. Their metabolic rate is the lowest among placental mammal.
Anteaters are solitary in nature. When attacked they will defend themselves with their sharp anterior claws. In the wild, jaguars and most large cat alike kill anteaters for food. But humans are their greatest threat. Some are run over by cars on a lone highway or humans used their pelts for sport. But the biggest problem is that of habitat destruction due to logging. True to the matter giant anteater is classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and also on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Specie’s 2000 Red list of Threatened Species.