Silky Anteater

Silky Anteater

Silky Anteater or Pygmy Anteater (Cyclopes didactylus) is a species of anteater from Central and South America ranging from extreme southern Mexico south to Brazil and, possibly, Paraguay. It is the only species in the Cyclopes genus and the Cyclopedidae family.

It is the smallest member of the anteaters, with total length ranging from 360 to 450 mm (14.1-17.7 in) and usually weighing less than 400 g (0.88 lbs). It has a dense and soft golden brown fur, short snout, partially prehensile tail and two very enlarged claws in each forepaw.


Cyclopes didactylus catellus Thomas, 1928

Cyclopes didactylus dorsalis Gray, 1865

Cyclopes didactylus eva Thomas, 1902

Cyclopes didactylus ida Thomas, 1900

Cyclopes didactylus melini Lönnberg, 1928

Cyclopes didactylus mexicanus Hollister, 1914

Natural history

It is a nocturnal and arboreal animal, found in lowland rainforests with continuous canopy where they can move to different places without the need to descend from trees. It can occur at fairly high densities of 0.77 individuals/ha, for example, in some areas. Females have smaller home ranges than males.

The Silky Anteater is a slow moving animal and feeds mainly on ants, between 100 and 8000 a day. Sometimes it can also feed on other insects, such as termites and small coccinellid beetles. It is reported to defecate only once a day. Some of those feces, examined by scientists, showed a large quantity of exoskeleton fragments of insects, indicating that the Silky Anteater does not possess either chitinase or chitobiase, digestive enzymes found in insectivorous bats.

It is a solitary animal and gives birth to a single young that is usually placed inside a nest of dead leaves built in tree holes.

Some authors suggest that the Silky Anteater usually dwells in silk cotton trees (genus Ceiba). Because of its resemblance to the seed pod fibers of these trees, it can use the trees as camouflage and avoid attacks of predators such as hawks and, especially, harpy eagles. During the day they typically sleep curled up in a ball. Although they are rarely seen in the forest, it is said that they can be found more easily when they are foraging on lianas at night.

When threatened, the Silky Anteater, like other anteaters, defends itself by standing on its hind legs and holding its forefeet close to its face so it can strike any animal that tries to get close with its sharp claws.


  • Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
  • Louise H. Emmons and Francois Feer, 1997 - Neotropical Rainforest Mammals, A Field Guide.
  • John F Eisenberg, Kent H Redford , 2000 - Mammals of the Neotropics: Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil
  • Best, RC; Harada, AY, 1985 - Food habits of the silky anteater (Cyclopes didactylus ) in the central Amazon. Journal of Mammalogy 66(4).

External links

  • Photos of Silky Anteaters on the Web: 1, 2, 3
  • Map of Silky anteater's range (]

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