Silky Anteater

This is the smallest anteater in the world. It is called the silky anteater because of the soft feel of its fur. The silky anteater is an arboreal animal that climbs with agility. It has a prehensile tail and long feet with special joints, which enable the claws to be turned back under the foot when grasping branches so that they do not become blunted.

The silky anteater is found in forests from S. Mexico to Bolivia. These anteaters inhabit areas of continuous rainforest, moving easily from one tree to another without descending to the ground. It lives in ceiba trees, which have large seed pods filled with silky fibres. The seed pods provide the perfect camouflage for the anteater, since the animal's silky fur blends in with the tree's shiny pods, making it almost invisible - even to sharp-eyed predators. The anteater rarely leaves the safety of its tree. It rests during the day in a tree-hollow nest; by night, the silky anteater moves slowly through the branches eating ants, termites, beetles and other tree-dwelling insects. In one day, a silky anteater can consume as many as 7,500 ants, which it licks up with its long, sticky tongue. When threatened, this species stands on its back legs and steadies itself by grasping a branch with its prehensile tail. This posture frees up the clawed forelimbs for fighting off predators.

Silky anteaters are often attacked by large birds of prey. They are at risk from harpy eagles, which will seize them out of the treetops, as well as from other birds of prey, especially spectacled owls that hunt at night, when the anteaters are also active.

Distribution: Occurs in the New World, ranging from S. Mexico down through Central America and the Amazon region in South America, reaching Brazil.

Habitat: Forest.

Weight: 175 - 357 g (6 - 13 oz).

Length: 36 - 52 cm (14 - 21 in).

Maturity: Probably about 1 year.

Gestation Period: 120 - 150 days; young are born in a tree hole lined with leaves.

Breeding: 1; weaning occurs at around 5 months.

Food: Feeds almost exclusively on arboreal ants, eating up to 7500 per day; may also prey on termites and coccinellid beetles.

Lifespan: At least 2.5 years.

Coat

The coat is golden brown, paler on the underparts and with a very dense texture.

Feet

The claws and footpads are greatly enlarged, which helps the anteater hold on to the branches.

Prehensile tail

This acts like a hand, helping the anteater to grip on to branches.

Sleeping

These anteaters curl up in a ball in a tree.

AGGRESSIVE DISPLAY

When threatened, silky anteaters rear up on their hind legs, so they appear larger, and lash out with their claws.

Gallery of Silky Anteater