2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Mammals

Northern Tamandua(Tamandua mexicana)
Northern Tamandua
(Tamandua mexicana)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Superorder: Xenarthra
Order: Pilosa
Suborder: Vermilingua
Illiger, 1811


Anteaters are the four mammal species of the suborder Vermilingua commonly known for eating ants and termites. Together with the sloths and armadillos, they make up the superorder Xenarthra.


The largest representative of the group is the giant anteater, or ant-bear (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), an animal measuring 4 feet (1.2 m) in length, excluding the tail, and 2 feet (60 cm) in height at the shoulder. It has a long, thin head and a large, bushy tail. Its prevailing colour is gray, with a broad black band, bordered with white, starting on the chest, and passing obliquely over the shoulder, diminishing gradually in breadth as it approaches the loins, where it ends in a point.

It is extensively distributed in the tropical parts of South and Central America, frequenting low swampy savannas, along the banks of rivers, and the depths of the humid forests, but is nowhere abundant.

Its food consists mainly of termites, which it obtains by opening their nests with its powerful sharp anterior (front) claws. As the insects swarm to the damaged part of their dwelling, it draws them into its mouth by means of its long, flexible, rapidly moving tongue covered with sticky saliva. A full-grown giant anteater eats upwards of 30,000 ants and termites a day.

The giant anteater lives above ground, not burrowing underground like armadillos. Though generally an inoffensive animal, when attacked it can defend itself with its sabre-like anterior claws. The female produces one offspring per birth.

The two anteaters of the genus Tamandua, the Southern Tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla) and the Northern Tamandua (Tamandua mexicana), are much smaller than the Giant Anteater, and differ essentially from it in their habits, being mainly arboreal. They inhabit the dense primeval forests of South and Central America. The usual colour is yellowish-white, with a broad black lateral band, covering nearly the whole of the side of the body.

The silky anteater (Cyclopes didactylus) is a native of the hottest parts of South and Central America, and about the size of a rat, of a general yellowish colour, and exclusively arboreal in its habits.

Family order


  • Suborder Folivora ( sloths)
  • Suborder Vermilingua
    • Family Cyclopedidae
      • Genus Cyclopes
        • Silky Anteater ( Cyclopes didactylus)
    • Family Myrmecophagidae
      • Genus Myrmecophaga
        • Giant Anteater ( Myrmecophaga tridactyla)
      • Genus Tamandua
        • Northern Tamandua ( Tamandua mexicana)
        • Southern Tamandua ( Tamandua tetradactyla)


Similar animals

  • Pangolins are also called scaly anteaters.
  • The Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus), a marsupial, formerly called the Banded Anteater. This species is very endangered.
  • Echidnas, a family of monotremes, are still sometimes called spiny anteaters.
  • Aardvarks are African animals with similar habits.

Anteaters as Mascots

The Anteater is the mascot of the University of California, Irvine, and of Methuen High School, Massachusetts.

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