There are many amazing creatures on our planet, the anteater is perhaps one of them. After all, his extraordinary appearance is very memorable. He is like an alien who descended from a spaceship or an unusual superhero from the pages of colorful comics. Even Salvador Dali himself was so inspired by the anteater that he decided to be one of the first to have such an exotic pet that delighted and amazed everyone around.
Origin of the species and description
From any encyclopedia about animals, you can find out that the anteater family includes mammals from the order of edentulous. As a result of paleontological excavations in South America, scientists managed to find the remains of these animals, which they attributed to the Miocene period. However, zoologists suggest that anteaters are much older and appeared much earlier.
Scientists distinguish three genera from this amazing family:
- Giant (large) anteaters;
- Dwarf anteaters.
Four-toed anteaters or tamandua;
Anteater species belonging to different genera differ significantly not only in appearance, habitat, but in their way of life. Let's take a closer look at each of the species.
The giant anteater rightfully deserved such a name, because it is the largest of its family. The length of his body reaches one and a half meters, and if you add the tail, you get almost all three. It should be noted that his tail is very fluffy and looks rich.
The mass of an adult anteater is about 40 kg. He lives exclusively on earth. He walks, interestingly bending his paws, so as not to rely on huge claws, but steps on the back of his front legs. The muzzle is very strongly elongated. This is not surprising, because it fits a long sticky tongue about 60 cm long.
Tamandua or four-toed anteater is much smaller than the previous one, has an average build. The length of its body is from 55 to 90 cm, and its weight is from 4 to 8 kg. It got its name because it has four clawed fingers on its front paws. It is interesting that the claws on the forelimbs are long, while those on the hind paws are short.
The tail is long, grasping, with a hairless tip, capable of deftly clinging to branches. This anteater feels great, both on the ground and in the crown of trees.
The pygmy anteater also lives up to its name, because this baby rarely exceeds a length of 20 cm and weighs only about four hundred grams . This baby lives exclusively on trees, moving in a lush crown with the help of its long prehensile tail and front clawed legs.
Appearance and features
We have already found out that representatives of anteaters from different genera look completely different, but some common features of their appearance, of course, are present. One of them is the presence of a long tongue covered with sticky saliva, so that it is convenient to eat insects. Another feature common to all is an elongated muzzle, similar to a tube, the mouth is presented in the form of a narrow slit.
The same feature for all are small rounded ears and small eyes. In addition, anteaters have a peculiar gait, because. they put their feet on the back of their paws so that their claws do not rest on the ground.
All representatives of anteaters have a tail. In those that lead an arboreal lifestyle, it is strong and tenacious, does not have long fur, while in the giant anteater it is large and fluffy.
In representatives of different genera, the female is always slightly smaller than the male. The front paws of all anteaters are equipped with long, powerful hook-claws, with which they defend themselves and climb branches. The hind limbs are not as clawed as the front ones, the claws on them are much smaller. Each anteater, regardless of what genus and species it belongs to, has a fur coat. Some have silky, short and soft fur, while others have coarse, bristly and very long fur.
The color of anteaters is also different. Some have a golden-beige coat, others are dark gray with black elements. The abdomen is usually colored light gray with whitish or yellowish streaks. The color of four-toed anteaters is somewhat reminiscent of the coloring of a giant panda. On his light body, as if wearing a black vest. Another common feature for all anteaters is the great strength of the long bones of the skull. In addition, these amazing creatures have no teeth at all, and their lower jaw is very elongated, thin and rather weak.
Where does the anteater live?
Various species of anteaters are quite widely settled in Central and South America, living in the following territories:
First of all, anteaters choose tropical forests, although some live in open spaces of savannahs. They like to be located along the banks of various reservoirs. Judging by the places of their permanent deployment, it is clear that they are heat-loving animals that prefer a hot climate.
If we consider the dwellings of these animals, then they differ depending on the lifestyle (terrestrial or arboreal) that the anteater leads. In giant anteaters, these are usually small depressions dug in the ground in which they sleep, sometimes they settle in a large hole left by other animals. Four-toed representatives of anteaters take a fancy to hollows in trees, making cozy and comfortable nests in them.
Pygmy anteaters also live in hollows, only in small ones, but they can often be seen resting, hanging on a branch, to which they cling tightly with their curved claws on their forelimbs. Tenacious paws with sharp claws-hooks hold them securely, so they are not afraid to fall and even sleep in such a suspended position.
What does the anteater eat?
It is not at all difficult to guess what the anteater's menu consists of, judging by the name of this wonderful animal. Naturally, this is a huge number of ants and termites. Animals do not disdain other kinds of insects, only the main condition is that they are small, because the anteater is completely devoid of teeth. In this regard, animals swallow their food directly whole, and then it is digested in the stomach. In general, the smaller the anteater itself, the more small insects it consumes.
Surprisingly, anteaters are very picky in their food, they certainly know a lot about tasty termites and ants. They do not eat soldier ants and those insects that have chemical protection in their arsenal. Anteaters eat insects in huge quantities. For example, a giant anteater eats up to 30,000 ants and termites per day, and a four-toed anteater eats about 9,000.
Most often, animals do not consume water, they have enough of the liquid that enters the body with food. But zoologists have found that sometimes they eat the fruits of palm trees, extracting moisture and other valuable nutrients from them with the help of large claws.
Anteaters resemble moving vacuum cleaners that roam forests and savannahs in search of termite mounds and anthills. Having found it, a real feast for the anteater begins, ending in complete devastation and destruction for insects, which are literally sucked out of their homes. While eating, the long tongue of the anteater moves almost at lightning speed, reaching a speed of 160 movements per minute. Insects cling to him like a Velcro that you can't get rid of.
An interesting fact is that the anteater's stomach is devoid of hydrochloric acid, which helps digest food. It is replaced by formic acid, which enters the body with food. Sometimes anteaters, like birds, swallow sand and small pebbles, they do this in order to help digestion, enhancing it.
In addition, all anteaters have a very low metabolism. In giant anteaters, the body temperature is only 32.7 degrees, it is the lowest compared to other placental mammals. In the four-toed and pygmy anteaters, it is higher, but not by much.
Interestingly, domesticated anteaters eat a much more varied diet than their wild relatives. They are happy to eat all kinds of fruits and vegetables, drink milk, love cheese, minced meat, boiled rice. These are the gourmets, only it is better not to accustom them to sweets, it is extremely harmful for them.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Different varieties of anteaters and their way of life, of course, is different. For example, giant anteaters lead a terrestrial life, dwarf anteaters lead an arboreal life, and four-toed anteaters combine both. Animals are most active at dusk. By nature, these unusual creatures are loners, with the exception of females with cubs, although fathers participate in raising children for some time.
Very rarely, anteaters form strong family unions, this behavior is an exception for them, but this, nevertheless, takes place. Nature did not endow anteaters with sensitive hearing and sharp eyesight, but their scent is simply excellent, and it helps in the search for yummy. Another ability of anteaters is the ability to swim, staying on the water very confidently and successfully overcoming large expanses of water.
When it comes to home improvement, different species have different preferences. Tamandua are fond of large hollows in trees, where they make cozy nests. Giant anteaters dig shallow holes in the ground, which they use for rest, and it lasts up to 15 hours a day. As a disguise and a blanket at the same time, they cover themselves with their rich tail, like a magnificent fan. Dwarf representatives of anteaters most often rest, hanging directly on a branch with the help of tenacious front legs, and with their tail they wrap around their hind limbs.
Anteaters have their own separate territories where they feed. If there is plenty of food, then such plots are not at all large, but reach an area of u200bu200bhalf a square kilometer, such spaces are found in Panama. Where there is not a great abundance of food, an anteater's plot can reach up to 2.5 hectares.
It is interesting that the tamandua shows its activity not only at twilight, it can stay awake throughout the day. If nothing threatens the giant anteater, it is in a calm and quiet environment, then it can also be active in the daytime, it all depends on the surrounding area.
In general, anteaters are not aggressive and quite good-natured, they prefer peaceful coexistence with other animal species and will never be the first to attack.
Those who have taken the anteater as a pet claim that the animals are quite intellectually developed, they easily learn many commands, delighting their owners. Most often, the tamandua is kept as a pet, although the famous artist Salvador Dali once preferred the giant anteater, walking it through the streets of Paris on a golden leash, which amazed others.
Social structure and reproduction
As already mentioned, anteaters are solitary animals that prefer to live outside the team. Only for the period of mating and raising offspring do they form a short-lived family union. It is noteworthy that the male helps the female take care of the common child, which undoubtedly makes him a plus. Although there are exceptions among these mysterious animals, very rarely they can form pairs for many years or even a lifetime, apparently, this is true love.
For tamandua and the giant anteater, the wedding season begins in autumn. The duration of pregnancy in various species lasts from three months to six months. In the spring, the parents have a single cub. He already has sharp claws and quickly climbs onto his mother's back. The father also wears his child on his back, helping his mother in upbringing for some time. For six months, the female treats the baby with her milk, although often until the age of one and a half, the baby lives with her mother until she becomes sexually mature.
Interestingly, in a giant anteater, the baby acts as a small copy of its parents, while in a four-fingered one it does not look like them at all and can be either completely black or white.
Anteaters of a dwarf variety are usually mate in the spring. The father also helps the miniature mother raise the cub. In all representatives of anteaters, grown-up babies feed not only on breast milk, but also on insects regurgitated by their parents, thus becoming accustomed to adult food.
Anteaters can rightfully be called real centenarians, because on average these extraordinary representatives of the fauna live from 16 to 18 years, and some specimens lived up to 25.
Natural enemies of anteaters
If in the wild for giant and four-toed anteaters such large predators as cougars and jaguars act as enemies, then there are much more dangers for dwarf representatives of the anteater family, they can be threatened even by large birds and boas.
In a large anteater, its main weapon is its huge ten-centimeter claws, with which it can tear the enemy like sharp hook knives. During the fight, the animal stands on its hind legs, and with its front legs it fights with the ill-wisher, these strong limbs can even crush the enemy. Often, predators, seeing such courage and power, leave and do not contact the large anteater, because they consider it a dangerous and strong opponent capable of inflicting serious wounds.
Tree baby anteaters also bravely defend themselves, despite their dwarf size. They also stand in a stance on their hind legs, and the front claws are kept ready in front of them to strike the enemy. The four-toed anteater, along with the main defense mechanisms, also uses a special odorous secret that is secreted by its prianal glands, scaring off enemies with an unpleasant odor. both directly and through their active life.
Population and species status
Because everyone anteaters are very selective in their food preferences and have few children, their number is small and every year it decreases due to the active intervention of people.
Indigenous people practically do not hunt anteaters because of their meat. The skins of the four-toed anteater are sometimes used in tanning, but rarely and in small quantities. Despite all this, giant anteaters continue to disappear from their usual habitats in Central America, and in many areas have already disappeared.
This happens because their permanent places of deployment are being destroyed as a result of human activity, which displaces anteaters from their usual place of residence, cutting down forest areas, plowing up savannahs, which leads to the death of these extraordinary creatures.
In South American territories hunters in pursuit of unusual trophies destroy anteaters, they are also threatened by dealers in exotic animals, who forcibly catch them. It is sad to realize that anteaters have undergone complete extermination in some areas of Brazil and Peru.
The tamandua is also often hunted, but not in the usual way, but in sport with the use of dogs. This is due to the fact that the animal is very interesting and effectively defends itself in order to save its own life. Anteaters often die under the wheels of a car, but the main threat to them is the loss of their permanent habitats, which leads to a lack of food and death of animals.
Although the population of all anteaters is very small and continues to decline, only giant member of this family. A person should seriously think about its detrimental effect on many representatives of the animal world, including anteaters, these amazing mammals should not be allowed to disappear.
In the end, it remains to add that the anteater is not only original, peculiar and unusual, but also quite peaceful and does not like to enter into conflicts, except perhaps only with ants and termites. Its amazing appearance discourages many. However, despite this, some people are not averse to acquiring such a pet, giving him all their warmth and affection. It is bitter to understand that not everyone is so kind-hearted, so there are fewer and fewer anteaters on Earth, which, of course, is worth thinking about and taking them all under vigilant and reliable protection.