Silky Anteater (Cyclopes didactylus)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Xenartha
Family:    Myrmecophagidae
Size:    Length: 6 to 9 inches (15 to 23 cm)
Weight: 6.2 to 17.6 ounces (175 to 500 g)
Diet: Ants, insects and occasionally fruit
Distribution: Mexico, Central America and South America
Young:  1 per year
Animal Predators:  Jaguars, eagles, owls and hawks
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: No special terms
Lifespan: Average 2 years



·       The silky anteater is also known as the “pygmy anteater,” “dwarf anteater,” or “two-toed anteater.”

·       Silky anteaters are the smallest anteaters.

·       Anteaters are also sometimes called “ant bears.”

·       Anteaters once belonged to the order of mammals called Edentata, which means “toothless.”

·       The silky anteater emits a shrill call when threatened.



Silky anteaters have two large, curved claws on each of their forefeet that they use to hold onto tree branches, and to defend themselves if threatened. Their tail is long and prehensile, which means that they can hold onto branches and swing from one to another using their tail. Silky anteaters can usually be found in ceiba (silk cotton) trees, which provide excellent camouflage for these silky, golden-coloured animals. Anteaters have poor eyesight, but an excellent sense of smell and hearing. 



Silky anteaters live in tropical forests ranging from southern Mexico through Bolivia and parts of Brazil. They can usually be found high up in trees, but underneath the top canopy to escape detection by birds of prey. Because they only come out at night and blend in with the forest background, silky anteaters are seldom seen.


Feeding Habits

They sleep during the day in a nest of dry leaves in the hollow of a tree, and during the night, they feed on ants and other insects, or sometimes fruit if no insects are available. One anteater may eat up to 8,000 ants per night, using its long sticky tongue to sweep them up into its mouth. Because they rarely descend from trees, they obtain their water from licking moisture, such as dew or rainwater, from leaves. 



Silky anteaters live alone or with a mate. Mating season is during the summer, and after a five to six month pregnancy, the female gives birth to a single young in a nest located high up in a tree. Both parents care for the youngster, and when it begins to be weaned, they bring back pre-digested insects for the baby. Sometime the male carries the baby around with him on his back. At approximately nine months, the youngster begins to go out on its own, and by one year, it is full-grown. 



Silky anteaters live in trees and rarely descend to the ground. When they do walk on the ground, they move slowly because their long claws get in the way. To compensate, they turn their claws inward and walk on the outsides of their feet. Little is known about the habits and social systems of silky anteaters. 



Silky anteater numbers are relatively stable, but they are being negatively affected by the destruction of their habitat. 



Silky Anteater Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US