Animal of the Week: Giant Anteater
Giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla)
Great place to see the giant anteater: Pantanal, Brazil
This unusually charming terrestrial creature mainly inhabits the forests and savannas of South America. This solitary mammal, with its elongated tube-shaped snout and a tongue that it can extend to a length greater than its head, can effortlessly raid and tear open ant and termite mounds using its large, curved foreclaws. Say ‘hello’ to giant anteater this week.
Also known as the ‘antbear’, the giant anteater has dense and long brown fur covering its body. It has poor eyesight but its sense of smell is excellent which it uses for defense, foraging and feeding. Although it has a long snout and an even longer a tongue, it is toothless. The tongue of the giant anteater has thousands of tiny hooks called filiform papillae. These hooks help the mammal hold the insects together with large amounts of its saliva. The tongue moves very fast, flicking about 150 times per minute. Fertilisation in this species happens, similar to some species of lizards, by contact transfer without intromission.
The anteater usually spends about a minute at an ant or a termite nest before moving on to the next one – and visits up to 200 nests to feed on thousands of insects to satisfy its caloric requirements, which is why it is our Animal of the Week!