In other words, anteaters are edentate (toothless). The 35,000 ants and termites they eat every day are no match for their lengthy tongues. The giant anteater is the largest of the four different types of anteaters, with a maximum length of eight feet. It has a bushy tail and a coat that is a grayish brown color with white markings on the front legs.
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Large populations of giant anteaters once thrived in Central America, but today their numbers have plummeted along with the rest of their habitat in South America. They require access to large areas with forested areas in order to survive. Wherever there is a plentiful supply of the ants they eat, which can be found in both tropical and dry forests, savannas, and open grasslands.
Snacking on Ants
The long snout, sticky saliva, and effective tongue of the giant anteater are put to use after the animal tears an opening in an anthill with its sharp claws. However, it must consume its food rapidly, and can flick its tongue as many as 150 times per minute. Because of the stinging pain that the ants can inflict, an anteater will likely only spend a minute or two at each anthill. Giant anteaters will always return to a nest they’ve previously fed from.
This species locates its prey not through its poor eyesight but through its acute sense of smell, which is 40 times more powerful than that of a human.
How they behave Giant anteaters are typically solitary. Females only give birth to one young each year, and it is not uncommon to see the youngster riding on its mother’s back. After two years, the puppies are considered mature enough to be separated from their mothers.
Although they are not known to be particularly hostile, anteaters can be incredibly dangerous. In a tight spot, an anteater will use its tail for stability as it stands on its hind legs and lash out with its sharp claws. The giant anteater can easily defeat a puma or jaguar with its four-inch long claws.
Except during the mating season or when a mother is caring for her young, giant anteaters typically live solitary lives. They don’t build nests or resting places that they keep, so they probably wander all over their territories. Adult males’ home ranges are about 1.61 square kilometers, while females’ ranges are about 2.4 square kilometers.
Birth and Growth
Sexual maturity in giant anteaters occurs between the ages of three and four. An average pregnancy lasts about 180 days (six months). They have one offspring at a time and nurse it using mammary glands on their chests.
After birth, the baby anteater immediately climbs onto its mother’s back, where it will remain for the next year. It develops its own identity and eventually becomes self-sufficient. In the wild, a young anteater will spend the first six months of its life nursing from its mother before eventually leaving at age 2.
Dangers to Their Existence
Giant anteaters are the most endangered mammal in Central America, according to the IUCN Red List. They are no longer thought to exist in the wild in the countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Uruguay, where they were once widely distributed. In order to make the cane stalks easier to cut, sugar cane farmers will often set fire to their fields just before harvest. This results in the destruction of the giant anteater’s grassland habitat, one of the main threats to the species’ survival. It’s not just the environment that’s at risk when these fires break out; animals like giant anteaters may also sustain serious injuries.
Hunting for food and because some humans view them as pests are two additional threats to the giant anteater’s survival. In the Brazilian Cerrado biome, where a vast network of roads has disrupted their habitat, giant anteaters are also frequently killed by road traffic.