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    • Is an anteater a prey or predator?

      • Predator or Prey. An anteater is a predator. Anteaters eat ants and termites. They stick their 24 in. tongue out and the insects stick to it, then they pull their tongue up and eats it. When it eats the ants or when it takes its tongue up, it never destroys their nest.
  1. Giant anteaters have only two natural predators -- pumas and jaguars. Sometimes the anteaters try to outrun their attackers, but other times they fight. Rearing up on their hind legs, they slash at their foes with their sturdy forearms and sharp claws (which can be up to four inches long!).

    • Near threatened
    • Myrmecophaga tridactyla
    • Swamps, humid forests, savannahs
  2. The giant anteater is commonly hunted in Bolivia, both for sport and sustenance. The animal's thick, leathery hide is used to make equestrian equipment in the Chaco. In Venezuela, it is hunted for its claws. Giant anteaters are killed for safety reasons, due to their reputation as dangerous animals. The giant anteater remains widespread.

    • What Is The Giant Anteater?
    • Habitat
    • Feeding on Ants
    • Behavior
    • Threats to Survival
    • Conservation

    Anteaters are edentate animals—they have no teeth. But their long tongues are more than sufficient to lap up the 35,000 ants and termites they swallow whole each day. As the largest of all four anteater species, the giant anteater can reach eight feet long from the tip of its snout to the end of its tail. It is covered in grayish brown fur with white front legs, black stripes running from its chest to its back, and a bushy tail.

    Giant anteaters can be found throughout South and Central America, though their numbers have diminishedconsiderably from the latter. To thrive, they need to be able to move throughout large areas with patches of forest. They can often be found in tropical and dry forests, savannas, and open grasslands, where the ants upon which they feed are abundant.

    The giant anteater uses its sharp claws to tear an opening into an anthill and put its long snout, sticky saliva, and efficient tongue to work. But it has to eat quickly, flicking its tongue up to 150 times per minute. Ants fight back with painful stings, so an anteater may spend only a minute feasting on each mound. Giant anteaters never destroy a nest, preferring to return and feed again in the future. These animals find their quarry not by sight—theirs is poor—but by their sense of smell, which is 40 times more powerful than that of a human.

    Giant anteaters are generally solitary animals. Females have a single offspring once a year, which can sometimes be seen riding on its mother's back. Pups leave their mother after two years, when they’re considered fully grown. Anteaters are not aggressive, but they can be fierce. A cornered anteater will rear up on its hind legs, using its tail for balance, and lash out with dangerous claws. The giant anteater's claws are some four inches long, and the animal can fight off even a puma or jaguar.

    According to the IUCN Red List, giant anteaters are the most threatened mammals in Central America. Listed as a vulnerable species, they are considered extinct in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Uruguay. One of the major threats giant anteaters face is the loss of their grassland habitats due to fires set by sugar cane growers who traditionally burn their fieldsprior to harvest to remove the plant’s outer leaves, making the cane stalks easier to cut. Not only do these fires affect the habitat, but also the animals—giant anteaters may suffer significant burns. Other threats include hunting—both for food and because some humans consider giant anteaters pests—and their low reproductive rate. Giant anteaters are also frequently killedby road traffic in the Brazilian Cerrado biome, where a vast network of roads has disrupted their habitat.

    In Argentina, the Iberá Project has rescued more than a hundred orphaned anteaters and reintroduced them to the wild. In Brazil, burning sugar cane is slowly being phased out in some parts of the country, while conservationists—including National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow Vinicius Alberici—are workingin the Cerrado Biome to collect data on how roadways affect giant anteaters in hopes to set new protections.

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  4. Anteaters have quite a few predators in their rainforest habitats, including jaguars and cougars. When threatened, the anteater will stand on its back legs and strike out with its front legs. Anteaters have long, sharp claws, and giant anteaters have been known to see off big cats and other predators.

    • Physical characteristics
    • Appearance
    • Behavior
    • Description
    • Distribution and habitat
    • Diet
    • Reproduction

    Giant anteaters have a long, distinctive snout with a 2-foot-long tongue and no teeth. They may have diminished senses of hearing and sight, but they have a highly developed sense of smell.

    These anteaters are distinctively patterned in various shades of brown with wide, black stripes that run from their upper front legs toward their spine. Their front legs are white, and they have a bushy tail. They have no undercoats to provide warmth; instead they have bristly, short hair on their shoulders and longer hair on their legs and tail, which resembles the texture of a horse's mane.

    Giant anteaters protect their sharp front claws by tucking them into their palms and walking on their front knuckles. Their back feet and claws are more similar to bears (they only knuckle walk with their front feet). They walk in a slow, shuffling gait but when necessary can gallop at over 30 miles per hour (48 kilometers per hour). They can also climb and swim. Giant anteaters will avoid threats if possible. If they need to defend themselves, they will rear up, steadying themselves with their large tails, and use their powerful claws. Adult giant anteaters are rarely vocal. If the young do vocalize, it is a high-pitched, shrill grunt. After birth, the young anteater climbs onto the mother's back where it stays for up to a year. As it matures, it becomes independent. A young anteater usually nurses for six months and leaves its mother by age 2. Giant anteater lifestyles appear to depend on the human population density around them. The more populated the area, the more likely the anteaters will be nocturnal; in less populated areas, anteaters are diurnal.

    The largest of the four anteater species, giant anteaters reach 6-8 feet (1.8-2.4 meters) in length, including both nose and tail. They weigh between 60 and 100 pounds (27 and 45 kilograms). However, it is nearly impossible to differentiate the adult male from the female using external anatomy alone.

    Giant anteaters are found throughout Central and South America except for Guatemala, Uruguay and El Salvador, where they are considered to be extinct. They live in wetlands, grasslands and tropical forests.

    Research has found that giant anteaters can identify the particular species of ant or termite by smell before they rip apart the prey's nest. When feeding, sticky saliva coats the tongue. The 2-foot-long tongue is attached to the sternum and can flick in and out up to 150 times per minute. Anteaters feed almost exclusively on ants and termites, whose nests they rip open with their powerful forelimbs and claws, and then ingest with their sticky tongue. They only consume about 140 insects from each mound during a single feeding. They rarely drink, but instead receive their water from the foods they eat or possibly moisture left on plants after rain.

    Giant anteaters reach sexual maturity at 3-4 years of age. Gestation lasts about 180 days (six months). They give birth to a single young and suckle the offspring from a pair of mammary glands located on the chest.

    • Their tongues are ridiculous. They start at the anteater’s breastbone and can extend up to two feet long. Their tongues are also covered in backward-facing spines and super-sticky saliva for maximum bug collection.
    • They’ve got no teeth.
    • Their legs look like panda faces. Getty Images. Once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it. This patterning is part of the giant anteater’s protective coloration.
    • They’ve got fistfuls of knives.
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