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Tamandua is a genus of anteaters with two species: the southern tamandua (T. tetradactyla) and the northern tamandua (T. mexicana). They live in forests and grasslands, are semiarboreal, and possess partially prehensile tails. They mainly eat ants and termites, but they occasionally eat bees, beetles, and insect larvae. In captivity, they will eat fruits and meat. They have no teeth and depend on their powerful gizzards to break down their food.
The northern tamandua ranges from southeastern Mexico south throughout Central America, and in South America west of the Andes from northern Venezuela to northern Peru. Southern tamanduas are found from Venezuela and Trinidad to northern Argentina, southern Brazil and Uruguay.
Tamanduas have tapered heads with a long, tubular mouths with an opening only as wide as the diameter of a pencil, from which their tongues are protruded. They also have thick, bristly fur, which is yellowish-white, with a broad black lateral band, covering nearly the whole of the side of their bodies. Northern tamanduas have a black V going down their backs, while southern tamanduas only have the V in the southeastern part of their range, which is the farthest from the northern tamandua's range. The underside and end of the tamanduas' tails are hairless, and they have four clawed digits on the forefeet and five on the hind feet.
Tamanduas grow to be 535 to 880 millimetres (21.1 to 35 in), plus an additional tail length of 400 to 590 millimetres (16 to 23 in). They weigh between 2 and 7 kilograms (4.4 and 15 lb) and live up to 9 years. The tamandua is thought to nest during the day in hollow tree trunks or in the burrows of other animals. Research shows that this type of anteater spends 13-64% of its time in trees. In fact, they are very clumsy on the ground unlike their cousin, the giant anteater. To avoid puncturing their palms with their sharp claws, they walk on the outsides of their "hands."
When aggravated, a tamandua communicates by hissing and releasing an unpleasant scent from its anal gland. If threatened while residing in the trees, it grasps a branch with its hind feet and tail, leaving its arms and long, curved claws free for combat. If on the ground, it backs up against a rock or tree and wrestles the opponent with its powerful forearms.
Tamanduas have small eyes and poor vision. Instead, they rely more on their senses of smell and hearing. Tamanduas are able to extract their prey by using their extremely strong forearms to rip open nests. They lick up insects with their elongated snouts and rounded tongues, which can reach up to 40 cm (16 in) in length.
These animals, though widespread, are uncommon. Claiming they kill their dogs, hunters often kill tamanduas. They are also hunted for the thick tendons in their tails, which are used to make rope. Tamanduas are sometimes used by Amazonian Indians to rid their homes of ants and termites.
Besides the tamanduas, two other anteaters exist, the giant anteater and the silky anteater. Tamanduas are much smaller than the giant anteater, which lives on the ground and is found in a wide range of habitats, including grasslands, deciduous forests, and rainforests. The giant anteater eats mostly ants and termites. Tamanduas are larger than the silky anteater, which ranges from extreme southern Mexico to Brazil, and possibly Paraguay, and is completely arboreal. It eats mostly ants and termites.
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