The Giant Anteater
The toothless giant anteater, found only in Central and South America, spends its day shuffling awkwardly along, sniffling the ground with its long snout in search of ant nests. Learn more.
The toothless giant anteater, found only in Central and South America, spends its day shuffling awkwardly along, sniffling the ground with its long snout in search of ant nests. The giant anteater is a solitary animal, spending most of its day searching for its favorite meat: ants. The largest of the four types of anteaters, it lives and feeds on the ground. Its smaller relatives spend much of their time in trees.
The giant anteater’s life is a solitary one. It is rarely seen with another anteater. When two of the animals come together, it is either for the purpose of mating or it is a mother with her young. Its habitat includes the rainforest and semiarid regions of Central and South America. It spends its day searching for food with the help of its exceptional senses of smell and hearing. At night, the giant anteater will either scrape out a hollow in the soil in which to sleep, or it will use the existing burrow of another animal.
The giant anteater’s diet consists mainly of ground dwelling ants although it will occasionally eat termites and army ants. It catches the ants with its long, sticky tongue. It gets most of the moisture it needs from its food, which also includes fruit and larvae. The giant anteater is prey to jaguars and other large cats although its coat of dense hair gives it good camouflage. It will use its long claws to defend itself, and with them the anteater can inflict serious wounds on a predator.
It is believed that males and females come together only to mate. The mother carries the young inside her for 190 days. The mother gives birth while standing and will use her long tail like a third leg for support. At birth, the baby immediately scrambles onto its mother’s back. It has a complete coat of fur that is so similar in color to its mother’s that the youngster is often difficult to recognize when it is with its mother. The mother suckles her young for about six months. During this time, the baby will cling to its mother’s back although it is able to walk a month after its birth. The offspring is slow to mature, it does not become independent until the mother is pregnant again, and it will not feed on its own until it is 2 years old.
The giant anteater is the most vulnerable species of anteater and is likely to become in danger of extinction in the next few years unless measures are taken now.