Giant Anteater

Myrmecophaga Tridactyla

Scientific Name

Giant Anteater:  
Myrmecophaga Tridactyla

Distribution and Habitat

Geographic Range

Giant anteaters are found in Central South America, from Southern Belize and Guatemala to Northern Argentina.

Natural Habitat

Found in swamps, rainforests and grasslands, the giant anteater can also be found in rural and densely populated areas.

Physical Characteristics

  • The largest of the anteater species, the giant anteater can measure four to seven feet long with a 26”- 36” bushy tail.  They weigh between 40-100 pounds.  They have an elongated jaw that is very narrow measuring as long as 18 inches, while their skull is only 12 inches long with very small eyes, ears and mouth.  Their tongue is two feet long and covered with tiny, backward pointed spines and thick, sticky saliva to catch tiny prey – like ants! Their body is covered with straw like hair with stripes on the shoulders and a crest of hair along the middle of their backs. They also have black bands at the wrist, like a bracelet. Their front legs are white with black bands at the toes. They walk on their knuckles with their claws tucked safely into their palm to protect them.


Quick Facts

  1. Main predators of the giant anteater are the puma and the jaguar.


  2. Because of their diet, giant anteaters have a tremendous impact on their local insect communities.


  3. They have a diminished sense of sight and hearing but a highly developed sense of smell- 40 times that of humans.


M&T Bank Rainforest Falls

Conservation Status

Vulnerable: The Giant Anteater population has been seriously depleted and its protection is not secured

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Giant anteaters eat termites, ants and soft-bodied grubs. They can east up to 30,000 ants in a day. They find their food mostly in tree trunks and open insect colonies. Their salivary glands secrete sticky saliva during feeding that coats the tongue. They use their tongue to collect the eggs, larvae and adult insects. They can consume a few thousand insects in just minutes. Their tongue moves very quickly, flicking 150 times per minute. They will also eat ripe fruit that falls to the ground.  At the Zoo the giant anteaters are fed a soaked biscuit made into a gruel, and a variety of insects.