|Image: Anthony Brewer|
Anteaters are deeply embedded in the weird part of class Mammalia. They're on the side of town where every second house is a commune of hippies and every third one is an art studio.
|Image: Smithsonian's National Zoo|
Anteaters are most closely related to sloths and if you add in the armadillos you have the superorder Xenarthra. There is nothing normal in Xenarthra and never has been. Today, armadillos are the only ones who reach up into North America, all the others live in South and Central America only.
|Image: Allan Hopkins|
|Image: Dewey, Tanya|
|Image: Phil Myers|
That's not a claw...
THIS is a claw
A Giant Anteater's head is about 30 cm (a foot) long while its tongue might be as much as 45 cm (18 in). While they need about 35,000 ants a day to sustain themselves, they only spend about a minute at each nest before they move on. It means they might have to visit as many 200 nests every day but at least don't get bitten and stung too much. Also, the ants and termites have a chance to recover. I guess the Giant Anteater knows all about this "sustainability" stuff; perhaps they've been reading up on it?
Ants aren't great as a staple foodstuff. Maybe it would work with some potatoes or bread or something, perhaps some carrots on the side. However, hand me a plate of 35,000 ants and a spoon and I'm pretty sure I would politely excuse myself from dinner. I'd be very impressed, though! Probably watch the ants for a long time, too.
Anteaters deal with their decidedly unvaried diet with an extremely low metabolic rate and body temperature. Just like sloths! They don't have teeth and they don't even bother to produce stomach acids to digest their food. They just rely on the formic acid found in the ants they eat. The ants stew in their own juices!
The other Anteaters are all much smaller and spend most of their time in trees.
|Image: Shawn Mallan|
Silky Anteaters need good claws for grabbing hold of tree branches. Their hind feet have good, long claws, four on each foot. There's also a prehensile tail. Great!
The front feet are different. Here there are only two claws, one massive one and one so gigantically massive it makes the other one look small. These two claws are so huge it looks like they monopolised all the space and pushed out the other toes. The third toe is small and has no claw, while the four and fifth aren't actually visible on the outside of the body. It's a kind of strange, claw-based gentrification.
|Image: Shawn Mallan|
Hmmm. Google turns up very little but there MUST have been a dinosaur with a prehensile tail, right? Surely!
|Image: Michelle Reback|
|Image: Jerry Oldenettel|
They both reach more or less 50 cm long not including a prehensile tail of around about equal length. Like the other Anteaters they're sleepy, toothless and don't want any trouble from anyone...
What you lookin' at?