Photo of the Day #39: Giant Anteater

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The Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) is one of my all-time favorite animals, and anytime I get to see one up close is a treat. Perhaps my affinity to them stems from the fact that they are simply so bizarre, the long tubular jaw, huge claws, and bushy tail making these animals seem like they were assembled from leftover parts in a creation myth. Ant-eating seems to have been a lucrative niche, though, as Pangolins (Manis sp.) are convergent with Myrmecophaga in having no teeth in their jaw, large claws to rip into ant/termite nests, and a long sticky tongue. Such similar morphology and habits would make one think that the two shared a close common ancestor, but in reality both these animals are far removed from each other, the Giant Anteater being a member of the Superorder Xenarthra and the Pangolins to the Laurasiatheria. Still, social-insects often provide an abundance of resources that appear to have been exploited time and time again by different lineages, evolution adapting creatures that took to exploiting the nests in very similar ways.

[Note; The most maddening aspect of this photo and others that I took along with it was that I did not fully know how to use my new camera when I took them, the light sand and bright light washing out the pictures to a degree. Add to that the fact that the anteater was not only awake but also very active, running laps around its enclosure, and most of the pictures came out blurry as well.]

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Great picture! For my honors thesis I'm studying how the behavior of maned wolves is affected when they share an exhibit with anteaters. One of the anteaters in particular at the zoo is extremely inquisitive, he insists on "tasting" my hands whenever I go to let him onto the exhibit...those tongues are truly amazing, and I absolutely love the soft end of the nose.

Lucky! That is a very interesting subject to study, though; you should definitely blog about it/share what you've come to learn when you can do so (I definitely would love to hear about it. Maned wolves and anteaters, what's not to like?).

Oh yeah, one of my all-timers too. Almost as bizarrocool as the whole animal is the skull!

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 16 Nov 2007 #permalink