Southern Tamandua Fact File
The southern tamandua is a member of the anteater family and is often referred to as the lesser anteater due to them being smaller than the giant anteater.
Their body is covered with a coat of short fur. The color of this varies based on where they come from. In the north of their range they are typically a flat color – blond, black or brown – across their entire body. Those in the south though have markings across the back and shoulders.
The shape of their hair helps to stop ants biting them while they are eating.
On their feet are long claws. These help with tree climbing, defense and finding food. There are four claws on the forefeet and five on the back. They must walk on the sides of their feed to avoid injuring themselves with the claws.
At the end of their body is a long tail. This has no fur on its underside which helps them to hold on to trees while climbing. The tail is prehensile and can be used to support them while climbing. It is also used to balance them when they stand on their back legs. Their tail measures between 40 and 59cm (1.3 and 1.9ft).
The pointed snout has an opening which is only about as wide as a pencil.
Their body measures between 53 and 88cm (1.8-2.9ft) long with an average weight of between 2.1 and 7.7kg (4.5 and 17lbs).
Southern tamanduas are omnivores. Most of their diet is made up of ants with the ability to eat as many as 9,000 ants in a single day. Ants are not chewed instead they go directly to the stomach where they are ground up.
To protect their food source the southern tamandua will not eat all of the ants from a nest in one sitting so it can regenerate for their next visit. This also reduces the time they are at each nest reducing the chance of bites.
These ants are supplemented with honey and soft fruit which they lick up.
2.1 and 7.7kg (4.5 and 17lbs)
53 to 88cm (1.8-2.9ft)
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South America is the native home of the southern tamandua. Here they can be found in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela.
They make their home in forests, savannas and mangroves. These animals are primarily arboreal and spend much of their time in the trees.
Mating takes place in the fall with the young being born in spring after a 130 to 150 day gestation period.
The juvenile is born with a black or white coat. Initially it will be carried on the mothers back but she may also leave it on a branch for short periods while she is foraging. Typically a single infant is born but twins are possible.
Sexual maturity is reached at 1 year old and this is also when the juvenile southern tamandua will leave its mother to live alone.
Southern tamanduas are primarily nocturnal. Their day is spent nesting in a hollow tree trunk or the nest of another animal.
Outside of the breeding season they are solitary.
When walking on the ground the southern tamandua must support itself on the side of its feet to avoid puncturing its own foot with its long claws.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators include cats such as the jaguar, puma and margay along with birds of prey.
When threatened they may emit an unpleasant smell from the anal glands. They may also stand up on their back legs using the tail for balance and thrash out with their claws at the predator.
Some Amazonian tribes used tamanduas to control the numbers of ants and termites around their house.
They are also known as the collared anteater and are given the nickname ‘stinker of the forest’ due to the unpleasant smell they produce when threatened.
Anteaters such as the southern tamandua are part of the suborder, Vermilingua, which means worm-tongue a reference to the long tongue they use to catch ants.
The southern tamandua has the lowest body temperature of any mammals at just 33 degrees Celsius (91 degrees farenheit).
By http://www.birdphotos.com – http://www.birdphotos.com, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6002829
By Tamandua_tetradactyla_qtl1.jpg: Quartlderivative work: WolfmanSF (talk) – Tamandua_tetradactyla_qtl1.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11435315
By Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE – Southern Tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla), CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=81032495
Photo Gallert Left
By Sinara Conessa – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24483121
Photo Gallery Right Top
By Deni Williams from São Paulo, Brasil – Parque Zoológico de São Paulo / Sao Paulo Zoo – Tamanduá Mirim / Southern Tamandua, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59936042
Photo Gallery Right Bottom
By Miguelrangeljr – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40016371
Smithsonian’s National Zoo. 2020. Southern Tamandua. [online] Available at: <https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/southern-tamandua> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
Gorog, A. 1999. “Tamandua tetradactyla” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 09, 2020 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Tamandua_tetradactyla/
Animals.sandiegozoo.org. 2020. Tamandua Or Lesser Anteater | San Diego Zoo Animals & Plants. [online] Available at: <https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/tamandua-or-lesser-anteater> [Accessed 15 December 2020].
Denver Zoo. 2020. Southern Tamandua – Denver Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://denverzoo.org/animals/southern-tamandua/> [Accessed 15 December 2020].
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden®. 2020. Southern Tamandua – Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden®. [online] Available at: <http://cincinnatizoo.org/animals/southern-tamandua/> [Accessed 15 December 2020].
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