Anteaters include some of the most specialized mammals on Earth though their preferred prey typically reside UNDER the ground.

Amazing Anteaters - Giant Anteater

 

1) Giant Anteater

Amazing Anteaters - Giant Anteater

“I wish I may I wish I might, dine upon termites tonight”... sounds like something a poetic anteater might come up with. Giant Anteaters really don't have time for poetry, mind you, as much of their waking activity revolves around consuming as many tiny insects as possible. Giant Anteaters really aren't all that big – they typically grow to the size of a largish dog – but their bushy tails, powerful claws and sticky two-foot-long tongues tend to make them stand out from other, more mundane creatures. (amazing anteater images via David Stanley above and Jean at top)            

 

2) Northern Tamandua

Amazing Anteaters - Northern Tamandua

The Northern Tamandua looks a little like its “Giant” cousin but in this case, size DOES matter: the ants it eats crawl on jungle trees so this compact (up to 50 inches long) critter has evolution-ally downsized itself to follow them. You'll find Northern Tamanduas patrolling Pacific coastal forests branch by branch from southern Mexico down through Ecuador and Peru. (amazing anteater image via ryanacandee)                          

 

3) Southern Tamandua

Amazing Anteaters - Southern Tamandua

The Southern Tamandua is also referred to as the Lesser Anteater, though it wouldn't be wise to take it lightly: when threatened, it can make like a skunk and  spray an exceptionally foul mist from a specialized set of anal glands. If that weren't enough, this tree-dwelling anteater has been known to ravage bees' nests when it can't find enough ants and termites to soothe its appetite. (amazing anteater image via Tambako The Jaguar)                              

 

4) Silky Anteater

Amazing Anteaters - Silky Anteater

The Silky (or Pygmy) Anteater is native to South and Central America but good luck actually seeing one. These shy and secretive creatures weigh in at under a pound and only grow to roughly a foot and a half long. They prefer to roam the depths of thick forests and are most active at night. Silky Anteaters have semi-prehensile tails that help steady them as they crawl along twisty tree branches in low-light conditions. (amazing anteater image via michael bamford)                           

 

5) Giant Armadillo

Amazing Anteaters - Giant Armadillo

The Giant Armadillo sounds like a prehistoric pal for the late and unlamented Giant Sloth but it's actually more of an Extra-large Armadillo, tipping the scales at up to 70 pounds. That said, the Giant Armadillo still leads the pack as the largest member of the Armadillo family. Humans are this creature's only predators and although the Giant Armadillo is an insectivore, ranchers consider it a pest as its digging and foraging can disrupt their carefully planted crops. (amazing anteater image via amareta kelly)                            

 

6) Pink Fairy Armadillo

Amazing Anteaters - Pink Fairy Armadillo

The Pink Fairy Armadillo doesn't look like your average 'diller but it does have a way cooler name. Only 4 inches long, this very specialized animal is native to a desert region of Argentina where it “swims” through the sand in pursuit of tasty insects. Pink Fairy Armadillos are only “armored” on their backs and posterior, the latter of which it uses to block the entrance of its burrow when pursued by predators. (amazing anteater image via Makuahine Pa'i Ki'i)                          

 

7) Numbat

Amazing Anteaters - Numbat

Numbats – also known as Banded Anteaters – are native to Australia and are the only marsupial anteaters. Gravely endangered due to depredation from invasive dogs, cats and foxes, only about 3,000 numbats remain in the wild. Numbats don't have claws sharp enough to rip into termite mounds so they burrow into the softer soil surrounding them, intercepting the tunnels termites use to enter and exit their nests. (amazing anteater image via flickker photos                           

 

8) Aardvark

Amazing Anteaters - Aardvark

Aardvarks are native to southern Africa, which is reflected in their name – roughly, Afrikaans for “earth pig”. These odd-looking animals eat termites almost exclusively, supplementing their insectivorous diet with so-called “Aardvark Cucumbers” when they're in need of water. Mmm, Aardvark Cucumbers! (amazing anteater image via Heather Paul)                          

 

9) Pangolin

Amazing Anteaters - Pangolin

Sometimes known as the Scaly Anteater, the Pangolin is an almost-prehistoric-looking mammal that is covered in sharp-edged keratin scales instead of fur. Pangolins are toothless, like most anteaters, but sport long and powerful claws used to tear open ant nests and termite mounds. Pangolins can grow up to 40 inches in length and their 1/4-inch-wide tongues are up to 16 inches long. (amazing anteater image via Wildlife Alliance)                          

 

10) Echidna

Amazing Anteaters - Echidna

The Echidna is also known as the Spiny Anteater, for obvious reasons. Echidnas are monotremes, a family of creatures even more primitive than marsupials. Want proof? Echidnas lay eggs instead of giving birth. Here's another fun fact about this native of Australia and New Guinea: the name “Echidna” comes from Greek mythology and means “Mother of all Monsters”. No argument here - and kudos to all Echidnas because, as weirdly primitive as they are, they've survived to this day... and hopefully for many more days to come. (amazing anteater image via Cazz)

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