The Silky Anteater (Cyclopes didactylus, family Cyclopedidae) - also known as the Pygmy Anteater - is the smallest of all anteaters , weighing only 300 grams as an adult. It is extremely difficult to observe in the wild because it is only active at night and moves through the canopy without descending to the ground.
The Silky Anteater is distributed throughout the Amazonian rainforest. An isolated, genetically distinct population exists in the northeastern Atlantic forest of Brazil and is regionally classified as ‘Critically Endangered’. This population is particularly threatened by habitat destruction, as deforestation is advancing at a fast pace. Locals also frequently capture Silky Anteaters to keep them as pets.
The Cyclopes didactylus can be found in forests from Southern Mexico to Bolivia. It can also be found in Brazil.
Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Average mass: 266 g.
Average basal metabolic rate: 0.636 W.
Rio Negro-Rio San Sun Mangroves Habitat
This taxon occurs in the Rio Negro-Rio San Sun mangroves, which consists of a disjunctive coastal ecoregion in parts of Costa Rica, extending to the north slightly into Nicaragua and south marginally into Panama. Furthermore, this species is not necessarily restricted to this ecoregion. Mangroves are sparse in this ecoregion, and are chiefly found in estuarine lagoons and small patches at river mouths growing in association with certain freshwater palm species such as the Yolillo Palm (Raphia taedigera), which taxon has some saline soil tolerance, and is deemed a basic element of the mangrove forest here. These mangrove communities are also part of a mosaic of several habitats that include mixed rainforest, wooded swamps, coastal wetlands, estuarine lagoons, sand backshores and beaches, sea-grasses, and coral reefs.
The paucity of mangroves here is a result of the robust influx of freshwater to the coastline ocean zone of this ecoregion. Among the highest rates of rainfall in the world, this ecoregion receives over six metres (m) a year at the Nicaragua/ Costa Rica national border. Peak rainfall occurs in the warmest months, usually between May and September. A relatively dry season occurs from January to April, which months coincides with stronger tradewinds. Tides are semi-diurnal and have a range of less than one half metre.
Mangroves play an important role in trapping sediments from land that are detrimental to the development of both coral reefs and sea grasses that are associated with them. Mangrove species including Rhizopora mangle, Avicennia germinans, Laguncularia racemosa, Conocarpus erecta and R. harrisonii grow alone the salinity gradient in appropriate areas. Uncommon occurrences of Pelliciera rhizophorae and other plant species associated with mangroves include Leather ferns Acrostichum spp., which also invade cut-over mangrove stands and provide some protection against erosion. In this particular ecoregion, the mangroves are associated with the indicator species, freshwater palm, Raphia taedigera. Other mangrove associated species are Guiana-chestnut ( Pachira aquatica) and Dragonsblood Tree (Pterocarpus officinalis).
Reptiles include the Basilisk Lizard (Basiliscus basiliscus), Caiman (Caiman crocodilus), Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas), Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and Green Iguana (Iguana iguana). The beaches along the coast within this ecoregion near Tortuguero are some of the most important for nesting green turtles. The offshore seagrass beds, which are among the most extensive in the world, are a source of food and refuge for the endangered Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas). Several species of frogs of the family Dendrobatidae are found in this mangrove ecoregion as well other anuran species and some endemic salamander taxa.
Mammal species found in this highly diverse ecoregion include: Lowland Paca (Agouti paca), primates such as Mantled Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata), Geoffrey's Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi), White-faced Capuchin (Cebus capucinus), Brown-throated Sloth (Bradypus variegatus), Silky Anteater (Cyclopes didactylus) and Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcintus). Also found in this ecoregion are carnivores such as Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), Central American Otter (Lutra annectens), Jaguar (Panthera onca), Northern Racooon (Procyoon lotor), and Crab-eating Racoon (P. cancrivorus).
Moist Pacific Coast Mangroves Habitat
This taxon occurs in the Moist Pacific Coast mangroves, an ecoregion along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica with a considerable number of embayments that provide shelter from wind and waves, thus favouring mangrove establishment. Tidal fluctuations also directly influence the mangrove ecosystem health in this zone. The Moist Pacific Coast mangroves ecoregion has a mean tidal amplitude of three and one half metres,
Many of the streams and rivers, which help create this mangrove ecoregion, flow down from the Talamanca Mountain Range. Because of the resulting high mountain sediment loading, coral reefs are sparse along the Pacific coastal zone of Central America, and thus reef zones are chiefly found offshore near islands. In this region, coral reefs are associated with the mangroves at the Isla del Caño Biological Reserve, seventeen kilometres from the mainland coast near the Térraba-Sierpe Mangrove Reserve. The Térraba-Sierpe, found at the mouths of the Térraba and Sierpe Rivers, is considered a wetland of international importance.
Because of high moisture availability, the salinity gradient is more moderate than in the more northern ecoregion such as the Southern dry Pacific Coast ecoregion. Resulting mangrove vegetation is mixed with that of marshland species such as Dragonsblood Tree (Pterocarpus officinalis), Campnosperma panamensis, Guinea Bactris (Bactris guineensis), and is adjacent to Yolillo Palm (Raphia taedigera) swamp forest, which provides shelter for White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and Mantled Howler Monkeys (Alouatta palliata). Mangrove tree and shrub taxa include Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), Mangle Caballero (R. harrisonii) R. racemosa (up to 45 metres in canopy height), Black Mangrove (Avicennia germinans) and Mangle Salado (A. bicolor), a mangrove tree restricted to the Pacific coastline of Mesoamerica.
Two endemic birds listed by IUCN as threatened in conservation status are found in the mangroves of this ecoregion, one being the Mangrove Hummingbird (Amazilia boucardi EN), whose favourite flower is the Tea Mangrove (Pelliciera rhizophorae), the sole mangrove plant pollinated by a vertebrate. Another endemic avain species to the ecoregion is the Yellow-billed Cotinga (Carpodectes antoniae EN). Other birds clearly associated with the mangrove habitat include Roseate Spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja), Gray-necked Wood Rail (Aramides cajanea), Rufous-necked Wood Rail (A. axillaris), Mangrove Black-hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus subtilis),Striated Heron (Butorides striata), Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata), Boat-billed Heron (Cochlearius cochlearius), American White Ibis (Eudocimus albus), Amazon Kingfisher (Chloroceryle amazona), Mangrove Cuckoo (Coccyzus minor), Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia), and Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus VU) among other avian taxa.
Mammals although not as numerous as birds, include species such as the Lowland Paca (Agouti paca), Mantled Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata), White-throated Capuchin (Cebus capucinus), Silky Anteater (Cyclopes didactylus), Central American Otter (Lontra longicaudis annectens), White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), feeds on leaves within A. bicolor and L. racemosa forests. Two raccoons: Northern Raccoon (Procyon lotor) and Crab-eating Raccoon (P. cancrivorus) can be found, both on the ground and in the canopy consuming crabs and mollusks. The Mexican Collared Anteater (Tamandua mexicana) is also found in the Moist Pacific Coast mangroves.
There are a number of amphibians in the ecoregion, including the anuran taxa: Almirante Robber Frog (Craugastor talamancae); Chiriqui Glass Frog (Cochranella pulverata); Forrer's Grass Frog (Lithobates forreri), who is found along the Pacific versant, and is at the southern limit of its range in this ecoregion. Example salamanders found in the ecoregion are the Colombian Worm Salamander (Oedipina parvipes) and the Gamboa Worm Salamander (Oedipina complex), a lowland organism that is found in the northern end of its range in the ecoregion. Reptiles including the Common Basilisk Lizard (Basiliscus basiliscus), Boa Constrictor (Boa constrictor), American Crocodile (Crocodilus acutus), Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus), Black Spiny-tailed Iguana (Ctenosaura similis) and Common Green Iguana (Iguana iguana) thrive in this mangrove ecoregion.
Cyclopes didactylus inhabits the tree Ceiba, which has large seed pods that contain masses of a silky silverish fiber. This serves as an excellent camouflage for this tiny anteater, because the sheen of the pods and the silky fur of the anteater are almost identical. The silky anteater needs this protection becasue its predators include the harpy-eagle, eagle-hawks and the spectacled owl -- all of which have excellent vision. The silky anteater is arboreal and very rarely descends to the ground.
Habitat and Ecology
The silky anteater is strictly insectivorous. It feeds mostly on arboreal ants and termites (white ants), but has been known to occasionally eat coccinellid beetles (Best). The anteater will eat on average 100 to 8000 ants per day. Cyclopes didactylus is an oppurtunistic feeder that forages among the treetops and invades ants nests with its long sticky tongue.
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Status: captivity: 2.3 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Gestation of the silky anteater is between 120 and 150 days. It gives birth to a single young that the mother will place in a nest of dry leaves in a hole in a tree trunk. The young is raised by both parents, and the male sometimes carries the young on his back. Both parents feed the young by regurgitating semi-digested insects for it to eat.
Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual
Average gestation period: 135 days.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Cyclopes didactylus
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2013Least Concern
- 2006Least Concern(IUCN 2006)
- 2006Least Concern
- 1996Lower Risk/least concern(Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
The silky anteater, or pygmy anteater, (Cyclopes didactylus) is a species of anteaters from Central and South America, the only living species in the genus Cyclopes and the family Cyclopedidae. A single extinct cyclopedid genus, Palaeomyrmidon, known from the Miocene of Argentina, may be ancestral to the living species.
Silky anteaters are the smallest living anteaters, and have proportionately shorter faces and larger crania than other species. Adults have a total length ranging from 360 to 450 mm (14 to 18 in), including a tail 17 to 24 cm (6.7 to 9.4 in) long, and weigh from 175 to 400 g (6.2 to 14.1 oz). They have dense and soft fur, which ranges from grey to yellowish in colour, with a silvery sheen. Many subspecies have darker, often brownish, streaks, and paler underparts or limbs. The eyes are black, and the soles of the feet are red.
The scientific name translates roughly as "two-toed circle-foot", and refers to the presence of two claws on the fore feet, and their ability to almost encircle a branch to which the animal is clinging. The claws are present on the second and third toes, with the latter being much the larger. The fourth toe is very small, and lacks a claw, while the other two toes are vestigial or absent, and are not visible externally. The hind feet have four toes of equal length, each with long claws, and a vestigial hallux that is not externally visible. The ribs are broad and flat, overlapping to form an internal armoured casing that protects the chest.
They have partially prehensile tails.
Distribution and habitat
Silky anteaters are found from Oaxaca and southern Veracruz in Mexico, through Central America (except El Salvador), and south to Ecuador, and northern Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil. A smaller, isolated population is also found in the northern Atlantic Forest of eastern Brazil, and there are also silky anteaters on the island of Trinidad. They inhabit a range of different forest types, including semideciduous, tropical evergreen, and mangrove forests, from sea level to 1,500 m (4,900 ft).
- C. d. didactylus Linnaeus, 1758 - the Guyanas, eastern Venezuela, Trinidad, Atlantic Forest
- C. d. catellus Thomas, 1928 - northern Bolivia, southeastern Peru, western Brazil
- C. d. dorsalis Gray, 1865 - extreme southern Mexico, Central America, northern Colombia
- C. d. eva Thomas, 1902 - western Ecuador, southwestern Colombia
- C. d. ida, Thomas, 1900 - western Brazil, eastern Ecuador and Peru
- C. d. melini Lönnberg, 1928 - northern Brazil, eastern Colombia
- C. d. mexicanus Hollister, 1914 - southern Mexico
Silky anteaters are nocturnal and arboreal, found in lowland rainforests with continuous canopy, where they can move to different places without the need to descend from trees. They can occur at fairly high densities of 0.77 individuals/ha, for example, in some areas. Females have smaller home ranges than males.
The silky anteater is a slow-moving animal and feeds mainly on ants, eating between 700 and 5,000 a day. Sometimes, it also feeds on other insects, such as termites and small coccinellid beetles. The silky anteater defecates once a day. Some of those feces contain a large quantity of exoskeleton fragments of insects, indicating the silky anteater does not possess either chitinase or chitobiase, digestive enzymes found in insectivorous bats.
It is a solitary animal and gives birth to a single young, up to twice a year. The young are born already furred, and with a similar colour pattern to the adults. They begin to take solid food when they are about one-third of the adult mass. The young is usually placed inside a nest of dead leaves built in tree holes, and left for about eight hours each night.
Some authors suggest the silky anteater usually dwells in silk cotton trees (genus Ceiba). Because of its resemblance to the seed pod fibers of these trees, it can use the trees as camouflage and avoid attacks of predators such as hawks and, especially, harpy eagles. During the day, they typically sleep curled up in a ball. Although they are rarely seen in the forest, they can be found more easily when they are foraging on lianas at night.
When threatened, the silky anteater, like other anteaters, defends itself by standing on its hind legs and holding its fore feet close to its face so it can strike any animal that tries to get close with its sharp claws.
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- Miranda, F., Meritt, D.A., Tirira, D.G. & Arteaga, M. (2014). "Cyclopes didactylus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2014-07-07.
- Linnæus, Carl (1758). Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I (in Latin) (10 ed.). Holmiæ: Laurentius Salvius. p. 35. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
- Hayssen, V., et al. (2012). "Cyclopes didactylus (Pilosa: Cyclopedidae)". Mammalian Species 44 (1): 51–58. doi:10.1644/895.1.
- Bartoz, Suzy1; Cerda, Anthony (2009). "Silky Anteater". Benedictine University. Retrieved 16 Aug 2009.[dead link]
- Miranda, F., et al. (2009). "Food habits of wild silky anteaters (Cyclopes didactylus) of São Luis do Maranhão, Brazil". Edentata 8–10: 1–5. doi:10.1896/020.010.0109.
- "Silky Anteater". WildMagazine. Retrieved February 2012.
- Sunquist, M.E. & Montgomery, G.G. (1973). "Activity pattern of a translocated silky anteater (Cyclopes didactylus)". Journal of Mammalogy 54 (3): 782. doi:10.2307/1378984.
- Louise H. Emmons and Francois Feer, 1997 - Neotropical Rainforest Mammals, A Field Guide.
- Eisenberg, J.F. and Redford, K.H. 1999. "Mammals of the Neotropics, Volume 3: The Central Neotropics: Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil". University of Chicago Press.
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