Anteater Facts

The anteater is a common name for four extant mammal species, including the giant anteater, silky anteater, southern tamandua or collared anteater, and northern tamandua. They are all known for eating ants and termites.

Anteaters are more closely related to sloths than to any other group of mammals. There are four extant species in three genera.

Quick Navigation

Anteater Facts for Kids

  • Anteaters are mammals
  • They have long tongues
  • The average lifespan of an anteater is 20 years.
  • They inhabit the forests of South and Central America
  • Giant anteaters tend to be solitary animals.

Physical characteristics

Anteaters have mouths that are formed like tubes and have long, elongated snouts with thin tongues and no teeth. Their foreclaws are used to rip up ant and termite mounds that they find.

Their sense of smell is 40 times greater than a human’s. They have a 2-foot-long tongue.

Anteater Scientific Name

The giant anteater is a three-fingered animal with four claws.

There are three types of anteater:

  • Southern tamandua
  • Northern tamandua
  • Silky anteater

Anteater Appearance and Behavior

Anteaters are solitary mammals that defend their territories. Males often enter the territory of associated females.

Anteaters have among the lowest body temperatures of any mammal and can tolerate greater fluctuations in body temperature than most mammals.

Anteater Habitat

The giant anteater lives in grasslands, forests, jungles, and lower mountain regions of Central and South America. It often lives beside streams and trees with abundant amounts of vines.

Anteater Population

Human habitat degradation and overhunting are reducing giant anteater populations.

Only around 5,000 to 10,000 wild remain, according to reports. IUCN says tamanduas and silky anteaters are widespread, but population estimates are unavailable.

Anteater Diet

Anteaters are able to tear through anthills and other insect nests because to the keen claws they possess. 

They consume their food rapidly, flicking their long tongues up to 150 times per minute, and they leave some of the insects in their nests so that they can continue to breed.

Anteaters are specialized to feed on small insects and eat ants and termites by licking them off their nests. Giant anteaters visit 200 nests per day to satisfy their caloric requirements.

The anteater’s tongue has thousands of tiny hooks called filiform papillae and moves 150 times per minute to hold insects together. Its stomach has hardened folds and uses strong contractions to grind the insects.

Anteater Predators and Threats

The IUCN Red List officially classifies giant anteaters as vulnerable, and sugar cane growers regularly burn their fields, ultimately affecting anteater habitats. Some humans hunt anteaters for food, while others kill them because they consider them pests.

Anteater Reproduction and Life Cycle

Female anteaters give birth standing up, and their babies immediately climb onto their mothers’ backs to remain safe from predators.

They reach sexual maturity between 2.5 and 4 years and can live as long as 26 years in captivity.

What is the tongue of an anteater?

The tongue of an anteater is long, sticky, and covered in barbs. The tongue is used to capture prey and keep it from escaping.

What is the function of the tongue of an anteater?: The function of the tongue of an anteater is to capture prey and keep it from escaping.

How does the tongue of an anteater work?: The tongue of an anteater works by flicking up to 150 times per minute. The sticky saliva on the tongue captures prey and keeps it from escaping.

What is the tail of an anteater?

The anteater’s tail is long and prehensile. The anteater’s tail is used for defense and for tearing open ant and termite mounds.