Giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla)
PHOTOGRAPHED IN: Central Pantanal. Mato Grosso do Sul Province. BRAZIL. South America.
RANGE: Central America, South America E of Andes to Uruguay and nw Argentina. Found in grasslands, swamps and lowland tropical forests. Density depends of food availability. They are members of the Xenarthra (edentulous/toothless) order together with sloths and armadillos but are the only toothless members of the Order. They eat mainly ants and termites which are found by smell, then digging into the ground and inserting their sticky tongues into the nest. They feed for short periods at each nest, taking a very small percentage of usually worker ants which does not cause damage to the nest. Their tongues can extend up to 61cm / 12 inches and are coated with a thick saliva. It can move as rapidly as 150 times per minute licking up ants. Their stomachs do not secrete hydrochloric acid but depend instead on the formic acid content of the ants they eat to assist with digestion. They consume as much as 35,000 ants per day. They are usually active at dawn and dusk and spend up to 15 hours a day resting. They make shallow depressions in which to lay down and cover themselves with their tails to remain camourflaged. Giant anteaters have the lowest recorded body temperature of any placental mammal, 32,7 degrees C. 90.9 degrees F. A single young is born in the spring and is immediately able to use its claws to climb up onto the mothers back where it is carried around for several months.