It is a solitary animal, found in many habitats from mature to highly disturbed secondary forests and arid savannas. It feeds on ants, termites and bees. It has very strong foreclaws that can be used to break insect nests or to defend itself.
- Tamandua tetradactyla nigra Geoffroy, 1803
- Tamandua tetradactyla quichua Thomas, 1927
- Tamandua tetradactyla straminea Cope, 1889
Tamandua tetradactyla inhabits various wet and dry forests, including tropical rainforest, savanna, and thorn scrub. It seems to be most common in habitats near streams and rivers, especially those thick with vines and epiphytes (presumably because its prey is common in these areas).
Head and body length ranges from 535 mm (21.1 in) to 880 mm (31.5 in) and tail length from 400 mm (15.7 in) to 590 mm (23.2 in). The individual and geographic variation observed in the Southern Tamandua has made the taxonomic description of these animals a difficult task. Animals from the southeastern part of the range are "strongly vested," meaning that they have black markings from shoulder to rump; the black patch widens near the shoulders and encircles the forelimbs . The rest of the body can be blonde, tan, or brown. Animals from northern Brazil and Venezuela to west of the Andes are solid blonde, brown, or black, or are only lightly vested. Tamanduas have four clawed digits on the forefeet and five on the hindfeet. To avoid puncturing their palms with their sharp claws, they walk on the outsides of their hands. The underside and the end of the prehensile tail are hairless. The snout is long and decurved with an opening only as wide as the diameter of a stick, from which the tongue is protruded.
Females of Tamandua tetradactyla are polyestrous; mating generally takes place in the fall. Gestation ranges from 130 to 150 days and one young is born in the spring. At birth the young anteater does not resemble its parents; its coat varies from white to black. It rides on the mother's back for a period of time and is sometimes deposited on a safe branch while the mother forages.
The Tamandua is mainly nocturnal but is occasionally active during the day. It is thought to nest during the day in hollow tree trunks or in the burrows of other animals. These animals are solitary. They may communicate when aggravated by hissing and releasing an unpleasant scent from the anal gland. Tamandua tetradactyla spends much of its time foraging arboreally; a study in various habitats in Venezuela showed that this anteater spends 13 to 64 percent of its time in trees. In fact, the Southern Tamandua is quite clumsy on the ground and ambles along, incapable of the gallop that its relative, the Giant Anteater, can achieve.
The Southern Tamandua uses its powerful forearms in self-defense. If it is threatened in a tree it grasps a branch with its hindfeet and tail, leaving its arms and long, curved claws free for combat. If attacked on the ground, this anteater backs up against a rock or a tree and grabs the opponent with its forearms.
In the rainforest the Southern Tamandua is surrounded during the day by a cloud of flies and mosquitoes and is often seen wiping these insects from its eyes.
This animal has small eyes and poor vision. Its large, upright ears indicate that hearing is an important sense for this animal.
Southern Tamanduas eat ants and termites (mainly arboreal forms), which they locate by scent. They avoid eating ants that are armed with strong chemical defenses, such as army ants and leaf-eating ants. Tamanduas are also thought to eat honey and bees and, in captivity, have been known to eat fruit and meat as well. Anteaters extract their prey by using their extremely strong forelimbs to rip open nests and their elongated snouts and rounded tongues (up to 40 cm in length) to lick up the insects.
Economic Importance for Humans
Tamandua tetradacyla from southestern Brazil are listed as CITES Appendix II. These animals, though widespread, are uncommon. They are killed by hunters, who claim that tamanduas kill dogs. They are also killed for the thick tendons in their tails, from which rope is made.
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- ^ Gardner, Alfred (2005-11-16). Wilson, D. E., and Reeder, D. M.. ed. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 103. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. http://www.bucknell.edu/msw3/browse.asp?id=11800048.
- ^ Abba, A., Lara-Ruiz, P. & Members of the IUCN SSC Edentate Specialist Group (2008). Tamandua tetradactyla. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 28 November 2008.
- Abba et al. (2006). Tamandua tetradactyla. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
- Louise H. Emmons and Francois Feer, 1997 - Neotropical Rainforest Mammals, A Field Guide.
- Gorog, A. 1999. "Tamandua tetradactyla" from Animal Diversity Web.