Myrmecophagidae – Anteaters

Anteaters have no teeth, but when you’ve got a 60 cm (2 ft) long tongue, eating should never be a problem!

Anteaters are specially adapted for their insectivorous diet. One of the most remarkable features of these animals is their extraordinarily long and sticky tongue, which is capable of flicking in and out up to 150 times per minute. This rapid movement allows anteaters to consume thousands of ants and termites each day, efficiently controlling the populations of these insects and preventing overpopulation, which could lead to the degradation of their habitats.

Equally fascinating is the anteater’s method of feeding, which demonstrates an instinctual understanding of sustainability. Rather than completely destroying an ant or termite nest, anteaters extract a portion of the colony’s inhabitants and then move on, allowing the colony to recover and continue its role in the ecosystem. This behavior ensures that anteaters can return to the same food sources repeatedly without depleting them, embodying a natural model of sustainable consumption.

Anteaters exhibit a variety of physical adaptations that support their specialized diet and lifestyle. Besides their long tongues, they have powerful forelimbs equipped with large claws used for breaking into insect nests and defending against predators. Despite their formidable claws, anteaters prefer to avoid confrontation and will only use their strength in self-defense or to protect their offspring.

Anteaters are generally solitary creatures, with each individual maintaining a large home range that provides sufficient food resources. They communicate through scent markings and vocalizations, especially during the mating season or when mothers are guiding their young.