Anteater: Key Facts

Did you know that there are four distinct species of anteater? Or that they eat more than just ants? Read on to learn more about these and other anteater key facts.

Quick Facts About Anteaters

Scientific Family:Vermilingua
Number of Species:4
Type of Animal:Mammal
Physical Description:All species have a long, narrow snout and long, wormlike tongue, as well as sharp claws on their forefeet. Giant anteaters are dark brown and black in color, with shaggy fur on the tail. Tamanduas are lighter in color with a distinctive black “vest” marking across their shoulders. Silky anteaters are a solid tan to brown in color. Tamanduas and silkies have prehensile, partially hairless tails that aid them in climbing trees. 
Distribution:Central and South America
Habitat:Tropical; can be found in forests, jungles, grasslands, and savannas.
Average Size:Dependent on species.
– Giant anteater: 6 feet long, up to 88 pounds.
– Southern and northern tamanduas: 4 feet long, up to 18.5 pounds.
– Silky anteater: 17 inches long, up to 11 ounces.
Average Lifespan:7 to 15 years
Diet:Insectivorous: primarily ants and termites. May also eat:
– Vegetation
– Fruit
– Invertebrates
– Small vertebrates
– Bird eggs
– Carrion
Endangered?The giant anteater is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN. Other species are not considered endangered or threatened.

What Is an Anteater?

Anteaters are unique-looking mammals found throughout much of Central and South America. They are known for their long snouts and tongues, which they use to dig into anthills and slurp up ants.

There are four species of anteater: the giant anteater, the northern and southern tamanduas (also known as lesser anteaters), and the silky anteater. Giant anteaters are much larger than the other species and spend most of their time on the ground, while the other three species are smaller and primarily arboreal (tree dwellers). 

Anteaters are insectivores, and ants and termites make up the bulk of their diet. Giant anteaters can eat up to 30,000 ants and termites every day.

Anteaters will also eat other insects and invertebrates, as well as small vertebrates, fruits and vegetables, bird eggs, and carrion.  

Anteaters are solitary creatures except during mating season. Female anteaters give birth to one baby each year, which they carry piggy-back style until the baby is old enough to walk and climb on its own.

Check out this video to learn more about anteaters:

Interesting Facts About Anteaters

  • Anteaters don’t have teeth. For this reason, they can only eat soft foods. Their powerful stomach muscles crush the food into smaller pieces, and strong stomach acids dissolve the food.
  • Anteaters walk on their knuckles. In order to protect their sharp front claws, anteaters tuck their claws against their foot pads and walk around on their knuckles. This prevents their claws from being dulled over time.
  • Anteaters have a low body temperature. With an average body temperature of 89.6 degrees, anteaters have a lower body temperature than any other mammal. 
  • Anteaters can run fast. Though anteaters spend most of their time resting to conserve energy, they can run up to 30 miles per hour when trying to escape from danger. If they cannot escape, they will stand on their hind legs and fight with their deadly sharp claws.
  • Anteaters have barbed tongues. An anteater’s tongue is covered in sharp barbs to help it grab its food. The tongue can flick in and out up to 150 times per minute, allowing it to grab large amounts of food.


Anteaters are intriguing creatures native to Central and South America. They eat a variety of foods in addition to ants, can stand and fight using their sharp claws, and have a lower body temperature than other mammals. To learn more about this interesting animal, check out this article and this article.

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