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Le grand tamanoir © F-G Grandin - MNHN

The giant anteater

The giant anteater, Myrmecophaga tridactyla, is a mammal which mainly feeds on ants and termites.

Profile

Class, order and family :
Mammalia, Pilosa, Myrmecophagidae
Life span :
up to 25 years
Size & Weight :
up to 2 metres, 50 - 55 kg
Gestation period :
6 months, 1 baby anteater
Natural habitat :
prairie, rainforests, woodlands
Diet :
insectivore – ants and termites
Native region :
South America
Statut UICN : 

Vulnerable

Lifestyle

The anteater does not move around much and sleeps up to 16 hours a day, curled up on itself. The anteater catches ants with 150 flicks of its tongue per minute. When it identifies an ants’ or a termites’ nest through its keen sense of smell, it climbs on top of it and tears it open with its powerful claws. It sticks its nose inside and, flicking its sticky tongue inside up to 150 times a minute, explores all the nooks and crannies of the colony. In this way, it can swallow up to 30,000 insects a day.

Distinctive features

Its snout and tiny mouth are one and the same. Inside this bony tube, formed by its fused jaws, there are no teeth, but a very thin 50 cm long tongue. Its thick skin and long fur protect it from insect bites.