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Temporal range: Early Miocene–Recent
Myrmecophaga tridactyla (giant anteater)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Superorder: Xenarthra
Order: Pilosa
Suborder: Vermilingua
Family: Myrmecophagidae
Gray 1825
Type genus


The Myrmecophagidae are a family of anteaters, the name being derived from the Ancient Greek words for 'ant' and 'eat' (myrmeco- and phagos). Myrmecophagids are native to Central and South America, from southern Mexico to northern Argentina. Two genera and three species are in the family, consisting of the giant anteater, and the tamanduas. The fossil Eurotamandua from the Messel Pit in Germany may be an early anteater, but its status is currently debated.


Myrmecophagids are medium to large animals, with distinctively elongated snouts and long, narrow tongues. They have powerful claws on their toes, enabling them to rip open termite mounds and ant nests to eat the insects inside. They have no teeth, but produce a large amount of sticky saliva to trap the insects, as well as backward-pointing spines on their tongues. Ants and termites are almost their only food in the wild, and their primary source of water, although they sometimes also drink free-standing water, and occasionally eat fruits.[1]

Females give birth to a single young after a gestation period of 130 to 190 days, depending on species. The mother carries the young on her back for several months as it grows. The adults are solitary animals.[1]



  1. ^ a b Dickman, Christopher R. (1984). Macdonald, D., ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 772–775. ISBN 0-87196-871-1.