14 Fantastic facts about anteaters


1. As solitary animals, anteaters keep their distance from each other. A single anteater has a territory of 90 square kilometres (35 square miles). Females are tolerant of strangers and fights rarely break out.


2. Anteaters only need to communicate when in mother-baby pairs where mothers make snuffling sounds to assure their young. Another time two anteaters might need to interact is when fighting. The fighting animals hiss and roar at one another.


3. After a six-month pregnancy, female anteaters give birth standing up. Once the baby is born, it immediately climbs on to its mothers back for protections. A newborn anteater emerges fully furred and shares colouration with its mother. After six more months the baby is weaned and starts to explore the environment. The youngster isn’t independent until it reaches the age if two, and leaves its mother to find its own home.


4. They are good swimmers, and often take shortcuts to patches full of ants through rivers or lakes.


5. The nose of an anteater is 40 times better than a human nose, and smell is their dominant sense.


6. Male and female anteaters look identical, and can only be identified when females are pregnant.


7. Anteaters can stand on two legs to fight or threaten predators. By leaning back on their tail they can use their extra sharp front claws to bat away attackers.


8. Though the giant anteater lives on the ground, other species live in the treetops. The silky anteater lives an arboreal life and never leaves the tree canopy. They are camouflaged by the fluffy beige seedpods in ceiba trees. If threatened, these animals grip the branch above with their feet and prehensile tail with their front claws extended. If all else fails, silky anteaters produce a foul smelling cloud from their rear end to repel predators.


9. A giant anteater’s tongue can reach an impressive 60 centimetres (24 inches), and cant dart in and out of the mouth almost three times every second. The insects stick to the saliva-covered tongue and are deposited into the mouth, ready to be swallowed.


10. Anteaters live alone, and don’t enjoy the company of others. If anteaters meet they usually choose to run away rather than fight. When approached by a predator, anteaters generally opt to flee rather than try and take their chances. Although their usual walking speed is less than one kilometre (0.5 miles) per hour, they are able to sprint short distances.


11. The long curved claws on each of the front feet are perfect for ripping open ant nests and termite mounds. The problem with having such sharp claws is the risk that their delicate paws pads could get punctured. Because of this, anteaters walk on the sides of their feet. This means that the claws remain sharp and are facing sideways rather than digging into the foot.


12. A giant anteater can eat up to 35,000 ants in a single day.


13. Although ants make up a significant proportion of what these animals eat, termites and beetles are among an anteater’s favourite foods. They also like to wolf down insect eggs and squirming grubs that they find. If they sniff out some ripe fruit on the ground, they are most likely to eat it.


14. Without teeth, the task of chewing food is left to the stomach. The lining of the stomach is packed with muscle and is even slightly textured to help digest the insects it eats. Their stomach acid is also extremely strong to break down the insect’s tough exoskeletons.




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