The Giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) is an insectivorous mammal native to Central and South America. It is one of four living species of anteaters, of which is the largest member. The Giant anteater is mostly terrestrial, in contrast to other living anteaters and sloths. With its distinctive appearance and habits, the anteater has been featured in pre-Columbian myths and folktales, as well as modern popular culture.
Diurnal animals are active during the daytime, with a period of sleeping or other inactivity at night. The timing of activity by an animal depends ...
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of a...
An insectivore is a carnivorous plant or animal that eats insects. An alternative term is entomophage, which also refers to the human practice of e...
Myrmecophagy is a feeding behavior defined by the consumption of termites or ants, particularly as pertaining to those animal species whose diets a...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
Precocial species are those in which the young are relatively mature and mobile from the moment of birth or hatching. Precocial species are normall...
Nomadic animals regularly move to and from the same areas within a well-defined range. Most animals travel in groups in search of better territorie...
Among animals, viviparity is the development of the embryo inside the body of the parent. The term 'viviparity' and its adjective form 'viviparous'...
A territory is a sociographical area that which an animal consistently defends against the conspecific competition (or, occasionally, against anima...
Polygyny is a mating system in which one male lives and mates with multiple females but each female only mates with a single male.
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
The Giant anteater can be identified by its large size, elongated muzzle, and long bushy tail. Its head, at 30 cm (12 in) long, is particularly elongated, even when compared to other anteaters. Its tubular snout, which ends in its tiny mouth opening and nostrils, takes up most of its head. Its eyes and ears are relatively small. It has poor eyesight, but its sense of smell is 40 times more sensitive than that of humans. Even for an anteater, the neck is especially thick compared to the back of the head, and a small hump is found at the back of the neck. The coat is mostly greyish, brown, or black and salted with white. The forelimbs are white, with black bands around the wrists, while the hindlimbs are dark. Thick black bands with white outlines stretch from throat to shoulder, ending in triangular points. The body ends in a brown tail. The coat hairs are long, especially on the tail, which makes the tail look larger than it actually is. A stiff mane stretches along the back. The bold pattern was thought to be disruptive camouflage, but a 2009 study suggests it is warning coloration. While adult males are slightly larger and more muscular than females, with wider heads and necks, visual sex determination can be difficult. The Giant anteater has five toes on each foot. Four toes on the front feet have claws, which are particularly elongated on the second and third digits. It walks on its front knuckles similar to gorillas and chimpanzees. Doing this allows the Giant anteater to keep its claws out of the way while walking. The middle digits, which support most of its weight, are extended at the metacarpophalangeal joints and bent at the interphalangeal joints. Unlike the front feet, the hind feet have short claws on all five toes and walk plantigrade.
The area of their distribution covers Central and South America, stretching from Belize and Guatemala to the northern parts of Argentina. Giant anteaters are found in a wide variety of habitats such as tropical dry forests, rainforests, savanna, open grasslands, shrublands, and flooded grassy plains. They can also be found in upland forests and plantations.
Normally, Giant anteaters are diurnal animals. However, they can become nocturnal during specific weather conditions or 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 they're 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 their tail to keep balance. In spite of being a 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. In order to communicate with each other, Giant anteaters use various vocalizations. Thus, when alarmed, they give out a ‘bellowing’ call. On the other hand, the infants usually make a ‘grunting’ sound, when falling off their mother's back.
Giant anteaters have a polygynous mating system, where one male mates with more than one female. Breeding depends on the 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. The 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. Reproductive maturity is reached at 2-4 years old.
Threats to these animals' populations are many. Thus, in some areas of their range, Giant anteaters are hunted for food, persecuted as pests as well as captured 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, the 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.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Giant anteater total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List, and its numbers today are decreasing.
These animals are very important for the ecosystem of their habitat. Being specialist predators of certain insect species, they hugely influence local insect communities.