Silky anteaters are the smallest living anteaters. They have dense and soft fur, which ranges from grey to yellowish in colour, with a silvery sheen. Many subspecies have darker, often brownish, streaks, and paler underparts or limbs. The eyes are black, and the soles of the feet are red. Silky anteaters have partially prehensile tails.
Silky anteaters are found in southern Mexico, and Central and South America. They range from Oaxaca and southern Veracruz in Mexico, through Central America (except El Salvador), and south to Ecuador, and northern Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil. A distinct population is found in the northern Atlantic Forest of eastern Brazil. Silky anteaters are also found on the island of Trinidad. They inhabit a range of different forest types, including semi-deciduous, tropical evergreen, and mangrove forests.
Silky anteaters are nocturnal and arboreal slow-moving animals. They are found in lowland rainforests with continuous canopy, where they can move to different places without the need to descend from trees. They are solitary creatures. Females have smaller home ranges than males. During the day, they typically sleep curled up in a ball. Although Silky anteaters are rarely seen in the forest, they can be found more easily when they are foraging on lianas at night. It is suggested that Silky anteaters usually dwell in silk cotton trees. Because of their resemblance to the seed pod fibers of these trees, they can use the trees as camouflage and avoid attacks of predators such as hawks and, especially, Harpy eagles. When threatened, Silky anteaters defend themselves. They stand on their hind legs and hold their forefeet close to their faces so they can strike any animal that tries to get close with its sharp claws.
Little information is known about the mating system and reproductive behavior of Silky anteaters. Females are known to give birth to a single pup usually in September or October. The gestation period lasts 120-150 days. The young are born already furred, and with a similar colour pattern to the adults. They begin to take solid food when they are about one-third of the adult mass. Pups are usually placed inside a nest of dead leaves built in tree holes, and left for about eight hours each night. Both parents take part in raising young. Males sometimes carry their young on their backs.
There are no major threats to Silky anteaters. In some areas, they are captured and kept as pets, although they usually don't survive long in captivity.
The IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide the Silky anteater total population size. This animal is common and widespread throughout its known range. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.