Definitions

anteater

anteater

[ant-ee-ter]
anteater, name applied to various animals that feed on ants, termites, and other insects, but more properly restricted to a completely toothless group of the order Edentata. There are four species classified in three genera, all found in tropical Central and South America. The great anteater, or ant bear (Myrmecophaga), has an elongated, almost cylindrical head and snout, a long sticky tongue, a coarse-haired body about 4 ft (1.2 m) long, and a long, broad tail. The large, sharp claws on the forefeet are weapons of defense and are used to open the hard earth mounds of termites and ants, which are then picked up on the saliva-coated tongue. The tongue extends to a length of about 2 ft (60 cm). The collared, or lesser, anteater (Tamandua), less than half the size of the great anteater, is a short-haired yellowish and black arboreal creature. The arboreal two-toed anteater (Cyclopes) is the size of a squirrel and has a prehensile tail and silky yellow fur. Other animals called anteater are members of other groups. The banded anteater of Australia is a marsupial; the spiny anteater, also of Australia, is a monotreme related to the platypus. For the scaly anteater, see pangolin. True anteaters are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Edentata, family Myrmecophagidae.
or spiny anteater

Short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus).

any of three species of egg-laying mammals (monotremes) of the family Tachyglossidae. Echidnas are stocky and virtually tailless. They have strong-clawed feet and spines on the upper part of the brownish body. The snout is narrow, the mouth very small, and the tongue long and sticky for feeding on termites, ants, and other invertebrates in the soil. The short-beaked echidna common in Australia and Tasmania is 12–21 in. (30–53 cm) long. Two species of long-beaked echidna live only on the island of New Guinea. They are 18–31 in. (45–78 cm) long and have a prominent downward-pointing snout. They are valued for their meat and are declining in numbers. Echidnas exude milk from mammary openings on the skin, and the young lap it up. Seealso anteater; pangolin; hedgehog.

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or scaly anteater

Any of about eight species of armoured placental mammals (genus Manis, order Pholidota) of tropical Asia and Africa. Scales formed of cemented hairs cover the upper body, legs, and tail. Pangolins are 2–6 ft (60–180 cm) long and weigh 10–60 lb (5–27 kg). They have a conical head, no teeth, a long tongue, short legs, and a long prehensile tail. Some are arboreal; terrestrial species live in burrows. Nocturnal animals, pangolins locate prey, mainly termites, by smell and rip open nests with their front claws. When threatened, the pangolin (Malayan for “rolling over”) curls up or emits an odoriferous secretion. Seealso anteater; echidna.

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Lesser anteater (Tamandua tetradactyla).

Any of four species of toothless, insect-eating placental mammals. Found in tropical savannas and forests from Mexico to northern Argentina and Uruguay, anteaters have a long tail, dense fur, a long skull, and a tubular muzzle. Their mouth opening is small, and the tongue is long and wormlike. They live alone or in pairs and feed mainly on ants and termites, which they obtain by inserting their sticky tongue into a nest torn open by the long, sharp, curved claws of their forefeet. The species range in length from 15 in. (37 cm) to 6 ft (1.8 m). Once grouped together, anteaters are now considered as separate from echidnas and pangolins.

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Anteaters are the four mammal species of the suborder Vermilingua commonly known for eating ants and termites. Together with the sloths, they compose the order Pilosa. The name "anteater" is also colloquially applied to the unrelated aardvark, numbat, echidna, and pangolin.

Species include the Giant Anteater Myrmecophaga tridactyla, about 1.8 m (6 ft) long including the tail; the tamandua or collared Anteater Tamandua tetradactyla, about 90 cm (3 ft) long; and the Silky Anteater Cyclopes didactylus, about 35 cm (14 in.) long.

The term "spiny anteater" is used to refer to echidnas, which consist of the Tachyglossidae family of the order Monotremata.

Classification

Order Pilosa

Gallery

References

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