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Los Llanos, Casanare, Colombia

(Myrmecophaga tridactyla)

IUCN status : Vulnerable

Giant Anteatrs are considered to be the most threatened mammal in Central America. Giant Anteaters prey almost exclusively on social insects (i.e. ants and termites). They are the largest of all the four species (Giant Anteater, Northern Tamandua, Southern Tamandua and Silky Anteater) of Anteaters. Giant anteaters do not have teeth; instead, they have tongues can reach as much as 610 mm (2 ft) in length. Their tongue is the longest in relation to their body size than any other animal. They use this giant tongue to gather insects for food, extending it up to 150 times per minute. With backward pointing spines/barbs on their tongue and extremely sticky saliva, they can eat up to 35,000 insects a day. Anteaters are able to detect insects with their powerful sense of smell, 40 times that of man. They sleep as much as 15 hours each day. As an outcome of their diet and lifestyle, Anteaters have relatively low metabolic rates. As a stark example, the Giant Anteater has the lowest recorded body temperature of any placental mammal. Their normal body temperature is 32.7° C (90.9°F).

Usually only one baby is born at a time. The mother nurses her baby for 6 months. They carry their babies on their back for up to a year even long after they have been weaned to protect them from potential predators.

Anteaters are not aggressive, but they can be fierce. A cornered anteater will rear up on its hind legs, using its tail for balance, and lash out with dangerous claws. The Giant Anteater's claws are some four inches long, and the animal can fight off even a Puma or Jaguar.

The Giant Anteater walks on its knuckles, much like a gorilla. This is so it can keep its claws nice and sharp. These claws are used for digging and for defense. Though they appear to be very lazy and sluggish, when running at top speed, they can match Usain Bolt (45 kmph).

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