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Giant Anteater

Giant Anteater Facts

Size Up to 6.8 ft (2.10 m) (total)
Speed Up to 19 mph (30 km/h)
Weight Up to 110 lb (50 kg)
Lifespan 9-20 years
Food Ants, termites
Predators Cougars, snakes, jaguars
Habitat Central and South America
Order Pilosa
Suborder Anteater
Family Myrmecophagidae
Scientific name Myrmecophaga tridactyla
Characteristics Tube-shaped snout, long tongue

Main Characteristics

The giant anteater is a diurnal mammal living in the grassy landscapes and savannahs of South and Central America.


What Do Anteaters Eat?

The anteater devours up to 30,000 insects per day.

How Do Ants Defend Themselves Against Anteaters?

Despite their rough coat and thick skin, anteaters can be attacked by ant soldiers and termites – successfully. They use formic acid, which even hurts an anteater in the long run. This is the reason why the anteater attacks quickly and fiercely in order to gulp down the insects before they are able to defend themselves.

Anteaters Walk On Their Knuckles

Anteaters do not tread on the balls of their feet while walking, but on their knuckles, so that the big claws do not wear off by touching the ground. Finally, the anteater needs its claws to dig holes and to defend itself.

Giant Anteater Giant Anteater - Photo: l i g h t p o e t /Shutterstock

Anatomy and Appearance

Why Do Anteaters Have a Long Tongue?

The tongue of the anteater can be up to 24 inch (60 cm) long. Therefore, the anteater is one of the mammals with the longest tongues. With its width of 0.4-0.6 inch (10-15 mm) it is extremely narrow and can strike up to 160 times per minute. Ants and termites, which have got caught in the sticky saliva, are being stripped off inside the mouth, when the anteater retracts its tongue, before making their way into the stomach as a favorite snack. Yummy!

Why Do Anteaters Have a Long Tail?

The long tail functions like kickstand: When the anteater rises up on its hind legs, it presses the tail against the ground to keep its balance.

Giant Anteater Giant Anteater - Photo: Whytock/Shutterstock

Senses and Abilities

Do Anteaters Have a Good Sense of Smell?

The noses of anteaters are 40 times more sensitive than those of human beings.


Anteaters are loners and only get together during the mating season. After about 190 days the female anteater gives birth to a single baby. When coming into the world it weighs between 2.4 and 3.5 lb (1.1 and 1.6 kg) and opens its eyes after about 6 days. Up to an age of 12 months, it normally rides on its mother’s back. Anteaters have grown up at an age of 2-4 years.

Giant Anteater Giant Anteater - Photo: belizar/Shutterstock

Fun Facts

Anteaters Sleep a Lot

Anteaters sleep 15 hours a day and are one of the species that spend most of the time sleeping.

The Giant Anteater Is Related To:

Animals in the Same Biome:

Giant Anteater Giant Anteater - Photo: Andreas Gradin/Shutterstock


Xenarthran Species Fact Sheets

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