Animal Class: Mammals
Length: 6 to 8 feet, with 3 to 4 foot tail
Weight: 65 to 140 lbs
Diet: Ants, termites, grubs, occasional fruit or eggs
Habitat: Giant anteaters are native to Central and South America. They live in grasslands, rainforests, deciduous forests, savannas and swamps. They are solitary and nomadic with no permanent sleeping or feeding areas.
As its name implies, the giant anteater is the largest species of anteater. They are covered with long stiff hair in shades of grey or brown, with a black and white stripe across the shoulder. Their long tubular snouts possess an extremely long tongue. They also have powerful limbs with enlarged front claws. The anteater’s long bushy tail is used as a sleeping cover or for balance when standing on its hind legs. Giant anteaters walk on their front knuckles to protect their long claws, which produces a shuffling gait. Anteaters have a keen sense of smell for locating food. Their long snout is used for burrowing into termite mounds and ant colonies, after ripping mounds apart with their powerful claws. The anteater’s extremely long tongue is sticky and can flick in and out more than 150 times per minute, which allows for rapid eating of thousands of ants or termites in a very short time. This helps the anteater avoid the stinging soldier ants that swarm to defend their colony. Their powerful front limbs and claws also serve as defense against their predators: the puma (also known as the cougar or mountain lion). When threatened, it will stand on its hind legs and swing its front claws with tremendous force. The anteater can also kill its enemy with a powerful “bear-hug.” Reproduction: • Mating season: throughout the year, can breed annually • Gestation: 190 days • Development of young: Females give birth to a single young, born fully covered with hair. The baby climbs on its mother’s back right after birth and stays there except to nurse for about 6 months, when weaning starts. • Maturity: around 2.5 to 4 years. Mating and breeding habits of wild anteaters are still relatively unknown. The Greek name Tridactyla means “three fingers” but the anteater has five on each foot, although three front digits have long claws. Anteaters prefer dry ground but are strong swimmers. Because it is one of two mammals (the Pangolin being the other) that has no teeth, it may swallow small rocks to help the stomach grind food. Its mouth has hard edges for chewing instead of teeth. The giant anteater is hunted by humans in Central and South America for meat and game trophies. Anteaters are generally quiet and docile, but may vocalize with grunts, growls or hisses.