What is an ant bear

Anteater - always one step ahead

The head and muzzle look like a long tube, the sticky tongue acts like a fly catcher. The brain is tiny, the bushy tail all the more spacious. The giant anteater is one of the most curious contemporaries in the animal kingdom. And although he's somewhat dull, he has lasted 57 million years to this day ...
Respect! Lydia Möcklinghaus, the world's only anteater researcher, agrees.

Most important facts
  • How big is an anteater?
  • Which animals are descended from the dinosaurs?
  • What is a secondary joint animal?
  • How long is the anteater's tongue?

A bear in the family?

Not at all. This was previously assumed because of the bear-like hind paws and because the animals stand up like a bear when they attack.
Anteaters are amazingly related to completely different companions: to sloths and armadillos. All 3 species belong to the so-called secondary articulated animals. That means: You have an additional joint in the spine.
The advantage for armadillos: they can fold up in case of danger.
For sloths: They can fall backwards from the tree.
For anteaters: you can stand comfortably on your back legs.

The closest family circle

is no less remarkable: the Great anteater, which is up to 2 meters long and weighs 45 kilograms, is 10 times the size of the tiny family:
The Pygmy anteater becomes only 20 cm long, weighs 250 grams and lives in trees. Under the protection of the treetops, he hunts ants at night.
In between there is the Lesser anteater or tamanduaAt one meter, it is only half as long as its big brother and weighs just 4.5 kilos. The Tamandua travels both in trees and on the ground.
All anteaters are at home in Central and South America and in southern Mexico - and there in the rainforests, savannas and wetlands.



"Not the brightest candle on the cake" ...

that's what Lydia Möcklinghoff says about her favorite research subject. And she means that very affectionately. Anteaters only have a very small brain, about the size of a walnut - more just doesn't fit into their small head. "This results in very low brain performance," said the biologist on the WDR program Planet Wissen. “The anteater can therefore only concentrate on one thing at a time. When I meet him in the field and he is looking for food, it often happens that I get very close to him. The anteater doesn't even notice that I'm there. "

.... but a super nose in the underground!

Smelling is its strength - the anteater can do that 40 times better than a human. In this way he effortlessly tracks down ants in the ground, which he first digs up with his long, sharp, sickle-like claws.

And then the incredible tongue comes into play:

It's two feet long and sticky like a fly trap. Nature's ingenious trick: when the anteater has dug up the earth, it ropes down its tongue from its toothless snout - and the ants stick. This game can repeat itself up to 160 times per minute. “In one day, a good 35,000 ants come together,” says Lydia Möcklinghoff. "That sounds like a lot, but it's just 180 grams. That's how much 2 bars of chocolate weigh. No wonder the anteater is always looking for food. ”Because apart from ants, it only eats termites, which it catches from their mounds in the same way.
So it's no wonder that anteaters live on the back burner and sleep up to 15 hours a day. Covered with the long, bushy, bristly tail.

Conversation about the trees

Anteaters are loners, but want and have to communicate somehow. They do that with scent marks and scratch marks on trees. That's what Lydia Möcklinghoff found out. "I don't yet know exactly what you want to say with your scent, they are probably looking for a partner or ranking each other and marking their territory."

Babies ride their mother tone on tone

An anteater usually only gets one cub at a time, which it carries on its back for about 9 months. The baby has the same pattern of fur as the mother between the shoulders, so it is well camouflaged there. The boy dismounts to drink, the mother lies on her side and covers the baby with her tail.
By the way, every anteater has its own very special coat pattern, by which you can recognize it.

The jungle dinosaurs are in danger

The giant anteater comes from the time of the dinosaurs - and over millions of years its species has survived all dangers. Also its natural enemies in the animal kingdom, puma and jaguar for example. Should he notice that they are sneaking up, he stands upright against them and defends himself with his claws.
But now the giant anteater is on the red list as threatened.
And through the people who rob him of his living space. In South America, especially in Brazil, soy plantations and cattle pastures are spreading more and more - and this year the Amazon forests burned like they have not for a long time. In front of chainsaws and fires, the animals flee onto the street, where they are often run over because they do not notice the cars quickly enough.
Lydia Möcklinghoff: "If protection concepts are not developed soon, it will only be a matter of time before this charismatic fuss disappears from the scene."
But protection plans can only be made if one has adequately researched a species. This is another reason why the biologist dedicates her time and work to the giant anteater.

Sources: WDR / Planet Knowledge | Lydia's website

Last updated: September 2, 2020