Giant Anteater Fact Sheet

Common Name:

Giant Ant Eater, Ant Bear

Scientific Name:

Myrmecophaga tridactyla

Wild Status:



Rainforests, Grasslands


Central and South American countries



Life Span:

16 years



Cool Facts:

  • Giant anteaters are so well adjusted to eating insects that they can even eat fire ants
  • Often mistaken for an aardvark, giant anteaters are more closely related to sloths
  • Giant anteaters use their sense of smell to find ant mounds instead of sight
  • Although they are mostly peaceful, if threatened they can fend off large animals like big cats, and have been known to kill humans
  • They possess no teeth and swallow their prey whole without chewing, like frogs
  • Their tongues can extend over 2 feet long, longer than any chameleon's tongue


One of the strangest mammals around is the giant anteater. Their enormous size and hard claws make them appear like formidable hunters, but most anteaters are solitary creatures who try not to interact with humans or other animals. In fact, the only prey they are interested in are thousands of times smaller than them: ants (and termites, too). Their claws are used not for slashing, but digging into ant mounds. A tube like mouth houses one of the longest tongues in the animal kingdom, which rapidly catches and swallows small insects without chewing. Because their prey is so small, anteaters eat several hundred over a few minutes. Typically, anteaters don't try to eat the entire colony, as they are not immune to their stings and must eventually leave to avoid harming themselves. Their strange nature has made them popular in human culture in South America, many of whom have worn their furs generations.

Taxonomic Breakdown:

Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Mammalia Order: Pilosa Family: Myrmecophagidae Genus: Myrmecophaga Species: M. tridactyla

Conservation & Helping:

The giant anteater is considered a vulnerable species due to habitat destruction and hunting, both for fur and meat. Although they are gone from some native areas, other areas are protected and enforced by local governments.

For Teachers and Educators


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