Anteater, any of several species of toothless animals that feed chiefly on ants and termites. This article is concerned with a family of anteaters found in southern Mexico and in Central and South America. It consists of the giant (or great) anteater; two species of tamanduas, or collared anteaters; and the silky (or pygmy) anteater. ; Pangolin.
The giant anteater lives in swamps and forests from Central America to southern Brazil. It is about six feet (180 cm) long, including a four-foot (120-cm) tail, and about two feet (60 cm) high at the shoulder; it weighs about 70 pounds (32 kg). The coarse fur is grayish with a black band extending across the chest toward the middle of the back, and the tail is covered with stiff, bushy hair. The long, slender head tapers to a narrow snout. The giant anteater has stocky, bowed legs and walks on its knuckles. It has three large claws and one small claw on each forefoot, using them to open ant and termite nests. The animal gathers the insects into its small, tubular mouth with its long tongue, which can be extended up to 24 inches (60 cm). The anteater sleeps curled up on the ground with its tail folded over its body. Due to indiscriminate hunting, the giant anteater is an endangered species.The giant anteater grows up to six feet long and two feet high at the shoulder.
The tamanduas are less than half the size of the giant anteater. One species is found from southern Mexico to northwestern Venezuela and Peru; the other is found from Venezuela and Trinidad to southern Brazil. Tamanduas are blond to tan with black fur on the chest, back, and shoulders. They have a naked prehensile (grasping) tail marked with black splotches. They live in trees. The female bears one young in the spring and carries it on her back.
The silky anteater is found from southern Mexico to Bolivia and Brazil. It has soft, silky gray-to-yellowish fur with a dark line along the head and back. It lives in trees and is active at night. The silky anteater is the smallest anteater, about 15 inches (38 cm) long, including its prehensile tail.
The American anteaters make up the family Myrmecophagidae and belong to the same order (Xenarthra) as do sloths and armadillos. The giant anteater is Myrmecophaga tridactyla; the tamandua of Mexico, Tamandua mexicana; the tamandua of South America, T. tetradactyla; the silky anteater, Cyclopes didactylus.