Tuesday, January 17, 2012

ABC Wednesday: A is for Anteater


A Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), one of four anteater species. The others are the incredibly cute Silky Anteater (note the size in comparison to the hand holding the branch!) and two species of Tamandua.

The scientific name of the Giant Anteater means three-fingered anteater. The have five digits, but three of them carry very long and powerful claws - so big that the anteater walks on his knuckles. They can easily break open termite hills and ant nests and will then feed on the insects with their long (2ft) tongue, flicking it out of their snout about 150 times per minute. Anteaters have no teeth, but they can crush their prey against their palate and have a particularly muscular stomach to help with digesting their food. They will open and feed on a number of termite/ant hills during one day and will never eat so much that the colony is destroyed. You can see a video of a feeding anteater here, with a great view of the snout and claws. They will also take grubs and eggs if they find them.

Giant Anteaters have a very poor sense of sight, but smell and hear very well. When they sleep, they cover themselves with their big tail.
A female will give birth to one baby (sitting up, leaning on her tail) and will carry it around with her on her back. The baby stays with her for about two years.

When threatened, the anteater tries to just run away, they can also swim very well. If cornered, they can rear up and embrace an attacker - no joke with those strong arms and claws they have.
Giant Anteaters are threatened by habitat destruction and they are also hunted. Sometimes their tails are turned into brooms.

This is a Northern Tamandua (Tamandua mexicana), tamandua means insect eater. Unlike their bigger relatives, tamanduas have adapted to living in the trees and can climb very well.

More As at ABC Wednesday

Photos were taken at Wilhelma, Stuttgart (Giant Anteater) and Frankfurt Zoo (Tamandua)

Sources and further reading:
Arkive Giant Anteater
Online Anteater
Wikipedia Giant Anteater
Wikipedia Tamandua

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