Giant Anteater

Giant Anteater

Ant bear

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Genus
SPECIES
Myrmecophaga tridactyla
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
25 yrs
TOP SPEED
49 km/h
WEIGHT
27-41 kg
LENGTH
1-1.3 m

The largest of the anteater species, this animal has quite small eyes and extremely long, sticky tongue. The fur of the Giant anteater is long, shaggy on its under parts and coarse on its upper parts. This anteater has long, bushy tail and short, strong legs. The head of the Giant anteater is narrow and long, having a small, black snout on the end. The animal has 5 digits on each foot with large, sharp claws on the 3 middle digits of the front paws. The fur of the anteater is usually greyish or brown. In addition, the animal has black and white diagonal markings, covering its shoulders.

Distribution

Area of their distribution covers Central and South America, stretching from Belize and Guatemala to northern parts of Argentina. Giant anteaters are found in a wide variety of habitats such as forests, grasslands and swampy areas. They prefer to sleep in sheltered, covered areas.

Giant Anteater habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Normally, Giant anteaters are diurnal animals. However, they can become nocturnal during specific weather conditions or living nearby human settlements. They usually sleep in abandoned burrows, hollows in the ground or areas with dense vegetation. Giant anteaters are solitary animals, except with mothers and their young. They are wandering animals, frequently moving from one spot to another. When they encounter each other in the wild, they can ignore each other, run away or even display agonistic behavior. They use their forelimbs to fight, standing in a bipedal position and using the tail to keep balance. In spite of being terrestrial animal, the Giant anteater is an excellent swimmer. Also, though they don't tend to climb in the wild, they occasionally try to climb out of enclosures in captivity.

Diet and Nutrition

These animals are specialist carnivorous (insectivorous) predators, hunting on termites and ants. However, they can also consume soft bodied grubs, eggs as well as fruit.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
Year-round or seasonally depending on region
PREGNANCY DURATION
6 months
BABY CARRYING
1 pup
INDEPENDENT AGE
2 years
FEMALE NAME
sow
MALE NAME
boar
BABY NAME
pup

They have polygynous mating system, where one male mates with more than one female. Breeding depends on region; they can breed either throughout the year or seasonally. Usually, the male and the female mate several times, remaining together for up to 3 days. Gestation period lasts 6 months, yielding a single baby. The pup is born with its full fur and markings, being fed from the mammary glands of its mother for about 6 months. Then, for about a year, the infant moves, riding on its mother's back, in spite of being able to gallop slowly. The youngster will stay with its mother for up to 2 years. Finally, at the time when the female becomes pregnant again, the pup leaves to begin its own life. Sexual maturity is reached at 2-4 years old.

Population

Population threats

Threats to these animals' population are many. Thus, in some areas of their range, Giant anteaters are hunted for food, persecuted as pests as well as captured for as pets or for illegal trade. In some regions, especially in Central America, the Giant anteater is threatened with loss of habitat. On the other hand, living in grasslands, this animal is threatened by fires. In Brazil, for example, burning of sugar cane plantations before their harvest causes serious burn injuries among Giant anteaters, leading to huge numbers of death. In addition, the Giant anteater is frequently killed by dogs or on roads.

Population number

The exact number of their population is presently unknown but decreasing. On the IUCN Red List, the Giant anteater is classified as Vulnerable (VU).

Ecological niche

These animals are very important for the ecosystem of their habitat. Being specialist predators of certain insect species, they hugely influencelocal insect communities.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • This animal in one of the two mammal species, not having any teeth, even in adult individuals.
  • This anteater is called “tridactyla", which means "3 fingers": the animal has 5 digits on each foot, 3 of which have prominent, extra-long claws.
  • Compared to other mammals with similar body size, this anteater possesses the longest tongue, protruding out of its mouth for more than 60 cms (2 ft).
  • The tail of the Giant anteater greatly helps the animal. It acts like a bicycle kickstand, allowing the anteater to keep balance while standing on two legs.
  • Their sense of smell is 40 times stronger than that of humans'.
  • Being a specialist predator of termites and ants, this animal, however, is not immune to their bites. For this reason, the anteater does not stay long at a colony of ants or termites, feeding for a minute and then moving on.
  • The body temperature of this anteater is one of the lowest among mammals - 91 degree Fahrenheit (32.7 degrees Celsius). This is due to their low-calorie insect diet.
  • These animals tend to use various vocalizations. Thus, when alarmed, they give out ‘bellowing’ call. On the other hand, the infants usually make ‘grunting’ sound, when falling off their mother's back.
  • The Giant anteater is capable of eating a huge amount of ants: up to 30,000-35,000 ants per day.

References

1. Giant Anteater Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_anteater
2. Giant Anteater on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/14224/0

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