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This anteater's coat is dense, soft, and silky (hence the name "silky anteater"), and ranges in color from grey to golden yellow. Its ears are short and rounded and the eyes are small and black. Large curved, sharp claws are present on the second and third fingers of the feet. This is the only anteater that doesn't possess any teeth.
With a maximum length of 19 inches (including a prehensile tail up to 10 inches long), this is the smallest anteater (giving it the alternative name of "pygmy anteater").
Distribution and Habitat
The silky anteater ranges from southern Mexico to Bolivia. It inhabits a range of different forest types, including semideciduous, tropical evergreen, and mangrove forests. Individuals have been sighted in altitudes ranging from sea level to almost 5,000 feet. It is most commonly found in Ceiba trees, which have large seed pods that contain masses of a silky silverish fiber that almost exactly match the animal's fur color.
The silky anteater feeds mostly on arboreal ants and termites, but has been known to occasionally eat coccinellid beetles. It is an opportunistic feeder that forages among the treetops and invades ants nests with its long sticky tongue.
A single offspring is born after a gestation period of about 135 days, usually in September or October. The young is placed in a nest of dry leaves in a hole in a tree trunk, where it is cared for by both parents. It is fed regurgitated semi-digested insects until reaching about one-third of the adult mass. It begins to go out on its own at about nine months of age, and is fully-grown and independent at one year.
Other Habits and Behaviors
Its small size and almost entirely arboreal lifestyle makes the silky anteater difficult to see and study in the wild. It is known, however, that it is nocturnal, solitary (except when breeding and raising offspring), and slow-moving.
Males have a home range of 11 hectares and overlap the home ranges of several females, which are approximately 3 hectares. Individuals of the same sex do not have overlapping home ranges.
When threatened, the silky anteater stands on its hind legs and grasps tree limbs with its hind feet and prehensile tail. It then hold its forefeet close to its face and strikes very quickly with its large claws. Its main predators are birds, including the harpy eagle, eagle hawks and the speckled owl.
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This page was last updated on August 13, 2018.