Anteaters are widely known for their dietary preferences, feeding mostly on ants and termites. With time, they’ve also developed extremely long tongues to help them catch these insects, making them fascinating animals.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the four types of anteaters.
- Silky Anteaters
- Giant Anteaters
- Northern Tamanduas
- Southern Tamanduas
Note: Anteaters are ranked in no particular order.
1. Silky Anteaters
Scientific name: Cyclopes didactylus
The silky anteater is the smallest living anteater species and a stark contrast to the giant anteater.
These small mammals are rarely longer than 18 inches (including the tail), and they usually weigh less than 15 ounces.
They’re some of the northernmost anteaters, as they can be found in Oaxaca, Mexico, all the way through Central America down to parts of Ecuador and Peru.
Although anteaters are known to mostly eat ants and termites, silky anteaters have been observed eating wasps at night, while captive animals eat fruit.
2. Giant Anteaters
Scientific name: Myrmecophaga tridactyla
The opposite of the silky anteater, the giant anteater is the largest anteater species. They’re capable of growing longer than 7 feet in length and weighing more than 100 pounds.
They’re most easily recognized by a very bushy tail with long hairs, as well as a long muzzle (which actually helps them feed).
Within the mouth, giant anteaters keep a 24-inch-long tongue, used as an insect-gathering tool.
Although they’re not thought of as dangerous, giant anteaters can be extremely dangerous when angered. They have very long, sharp claws, capable of killing people and large cats.
3. Northern Tamanduas
Scientific name: Tamandua mexicana
Northern tamanduas have the most limited territory of all anteaters, as they’re only found in parts of southern Mexico, Central America, and a northwestern pocket of South America, alongside the coast.
These types of anteaters in Colombia can reach 50 inches in length (with the tail often comprising a large part of that length), weighing up to 12 pounds.
Just like the giant anteater, they have a very long, sticky tongue that bugs stick to.
However, unlike the giant anteater, these animals are adapted to life in the trees. Aside from climbing trees, they can also rip small trees open and feed on the insects inside.
4. Southern Tamanduas
Scientific name: Tamandua tetradactyla
The final anteater on the list inhabits a very wide range of habitats across South America, making it possibly the most widespread anteater.
They can be found anywhere from the northern coast of South America to parts of northern Argentina, missing only from Chile.
Southern tamanduas are capable of growing longer than 60 inches and weighing up to 20 pounds. These animals are mostly nocturnal, and they’re just as arboreal as northern tamanduas.
In fact, they spend most of their lives in the trees as they’re clumsy and slow on the ground. Because of this, they often invade insect nests in the trees.
Anteaters are fascinating because of the adaptations they made to feed on insects (extremely long tongues and muzzles), but they’re also set apart by their defensive abilities. Although they seem harmless, all anteaters are equipped with extremely dangerous claws, capable of seriously injuring other animals.
The giant anteater, while the largest and the quickest animal, is completely incapable of climbing trees, making it the least arboreal anteater species. Luckily, anteaters are doing very well in the wild and they’re nowhere near endangered.