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Anteaters: Myrmecophagidae - Physical Characteristics

tamandua silky fur ants

The anteater has a long snout, the part of the face that includes the nose, mouth, and jaw. While the anteater is toothless, it has a long tongue that it uses to catch the ants that make up the major part of its diet. The anteater uses its snout and claws to reach into ant nests. Long hair on the anteater's body is a protection against bites from the ants that they hunt and eat.

The anteater family includes three genera (JEN-uh-rah) and four species. A genus (JEE-nus), the singular of genera, is a group of animals with similar characteristics. Size is the primary difference in each anteater genus, and that difference is represented in the animals' common names.

From head to tail, the giant anteater measures a total of 110 inches (280 centimeters), and weighs from 48 to 88 pounds (22 to 39 kilograms).

Next in size are the tamanduas (tuh-MAN-duh-wahz), which are also known as the "lesser anteaters." Tamandua translates to "ant catcher" in Portuguese. The northern tamandua is brown with black fur on its back, and the southern tamandua's fur color ranges from blond to brown.

The silky anteater is also called the pygmy anteater. The maximum head-to-tail length is 21 inches (52 centimeters). Weight ranges from 6 to 13 ounces (175 to 357 grams).

The silky anteater and tamandua have prehensile tails that they use to grab and hold onto objects like trees. Both species have soft, silky hair in contrast to the coarse (rough) fur of the giant anteater.

Anteaters: Myrmecophagidae - Behavior And Reproduction [next]

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