ANTEATER, a term applied to several mammals, but (zoologically at any rate) specially indicating the tropical American anteaters of the family Myrmecophagidae (see Edentata). The typical and largest representative of the group is the great anteater or ant-bear (Myrmecophaga jubata), an animal measuring 4 ft. in length without the tail, and 2 ft. in height at the shoulder. Its prevailing colour is grey, with a broad black band, bordered with white, commencing on the chest, and passing obliquely over the shoulder, diminishing gradually in breadth as it approaches the loins, where it ends in a point. It is extensively distributed in the tropical parts of South and Central America, frequenting low swampy savannas, along the banks of rivers, and the depths of the humid forests, but is nowhere abundant. Its food consists mainly of termites, to obtain which it opens their nests with its powerful sharp anterior claws, and as the insects swarm to the damaged part of their dwelling, it draws them into its mouth by means of its long, flexible, rapidly moving tongue covered with glutinous saliva. The great anteater is terrestrial in habits, not burrowing underground like armadillos. Though generally an inoffensive animal, when attacked it can defend itself vigorously and effectively with its sabre-like anterior claws. The female produces a single young at a birth. The tamandua anteaters, as typified by Tamandua (or Uroleptes) tetradactyla, are much smaller than the great anteater, and differ essentially from it in their habits, being mainly arboreal. They inhabit the dense primeval forests of South and Central America. The usual colour is yellowish-white, with a broad black lateral band, covering nearly the whole of the side of the body.
The little or two-toed anteater (Cyclopes or Cycloturus didactylus) is a native of the hottest parts of South and Central America, and about the size of a rat, of a general yellowish colour, and exclusively arboreal in its habits. The name scaly anteater is applied to the pangolin (q.v.); the banded anteater (Myrmecobius fasciatus) is a marsupial, and the spiny anteater (Echidna) is one of the monotremes (see Marsupialia and Monotremata).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)