Saturday, September 10, 2011

Giant Anteater

Myrmecophaga tridactyla
Giant Anteaters are a relatively new addition to my "Favorite Animals" list. First off, they're huge. Secondly, they have awesome tails. Thirdly, their babies hang on to their tails. And finally, I am a sucker for animals with long faces (which is probably why I own a Collie).

There are four species of Anteater, all of which can be found in the Western Hemisphere. The Giant Anteater is (un-shockingly) the largest of the bunch, and by quite a substantial amount. A full grown adult can weight well over 100lbs, while it's next largest cousin doesn't typically go over 15.

Giant Anteater
They are also really, really long. They have body lengths of around 4ft, and then a 3ft long tail after that. Their tails are also really brush-like, and help them to balance while standing up on their hind legs to feed. Giant Anteaters don't actually walk flat-footed, they curl up their paws into fists and walk on their knuckles. This keeps their long claws nice and sharp for digging.

Giant Anteaters have additional tools that help them find and slurp up prey. They have poor eyesight,a dn rely on smell to locate mounds. Once they find and dig in to a mound, they use their two foot long tongue to probe inside and collect lots and lots of ants and termites in their sticky saliva. They can flick their tongues 160 times per minute! The Anteater then uses its long jaw to detahc the meal, and its powerful stomach to grind up and break down the insects. They can consume up to 30,000 in a single day!

Giant Anteaters are solitary animals, unless they are a female with a child. Young Anteaters stay with thier mothers for as long as two years, and will ride on their backs and tails when they are small. This not only allows the little family to get around quicker, but it keeps the young one safe since its patterning camouflages it into the mother's fur. For some really, really cute pictures, check out Maripi and Pablo's gallery at the National Zoo website.

IUCN Status : Vulnerable
Location : Central and South America
Size : Body length 4ft (1.2m), Weight up to 140lbs (64kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Superorder : Xenarthra
Order : Pilosa -- Family : Myrmecophagidae -- Genus : Myrmecophaga -- Species : M. tridactyla

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