The Silky Anteater
Silky Anteater or Pygmy Anteater (Cyclopes didactylus) is a species of anteater from Central and South America, ranging from extreme southern Mexico, south to Brazil, and possibly Paraguay. It is the only living species in the Cyclopes genus and the Cyclopedidae family.
It is the smallest member of the anteaters, with total length ranging from 360 to 450 millimetres (14.1-17.7 inches) and usually weighing less than 400 grams (0.88 pounds). It has a dense and soft golden brown fur, short snout, partially prehensile tail and two enlarged claws in each forepaw.
It is a nocturnal and arboreal animal, found in lowland rainforests with continuous canopy where they can move to different places without the need to descend from trees. Females have smaller home ranges than males.
The Silky Anteater is a slow moving animal which feeds mainly on ants, between 100 and 8000 a day. Sometimes it can also feed on other insects, such as termites and small coccinellid beetles. This ant-eating creature is said to defecate once a day and some of those faeces, examined by scientists, showed a large quantity of exoskeleton fragments of insects, indicating that these creatures do not possess either chitinase or chitobiase, digestive enzymes found in insectivorous bats.
It is also regarded as solitary animals and is known to give birth to a single young that is usually placed inside a nest of dead leaves built in tree holes. Some authors suggest that the Silky Anteater usually dwells in silk cotton trees, a basis from which it is named.
Because of its resemblance to the seed pod fibres of these trees, the anteater 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, it is said that 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 forefeet close to its face so it can strike any animal that tries to get close with its sharp claws.
Anteaters are one of the four mammal species of the suborder Vermilingua, commonly known for eating ants and termites. Together with the sloths, they compose the order Pilosa. However anteaters are more closely related to the armadillos than they are to any other group of mammals. There are three genera still living: the Giant Anteater, the Silky Anteater, and the Northern and Southern carnivore anteaters. There are also several extinct genera.
Anteaters are one of the surviving families of mammals that occupied South America while it was geographically isolated from an invasion of animals from North America.
At one time, it was assumed that anteaters were related to aardvarks and pangolins because of their physical similarities to those animals, but it has since been determined that these similarities are not a sign of a common ancestor, but of convergent evolution. This is most evident through their powerful digging forearms and long, toothless tube-like snouts and tongues in order to make a living by raiding termite mounds. This similarity is the reason aardvarks are also commonly called “anteaters”; the pangolin has been called the “scaly anteater”; and the word “antbear” is a common term for both the aardvark and the giant anteater.