Sure it is easy to assume that anteaters only eat ants because their name implies so. This, however, is not the case. So, what do anteaters eat aside from ants? Before we figure out the answer to this question, let’s talk some more about what anteaters are.
Anteaters, also called antbears, are animals belonging to four species of mammals of the order Vermilingua. The four species are the silky anteater, the giant anteater, the Southern Tamandua and the Northern Tamandua.
Anteaters are commonly found in the rainforests and the grasslands of South and Central America. Giant anteaters typically stay above ground and other types of anteaters live in trees.
What Do Anteaters Eat?
Anteaters are edentate animals, meaning, animals without teeth. They do have long tongues though that are more than enough to devour 35,000 ants and termites every day.
Equipped with sharp claws, anteaters can tear a cavity on an anthill and scoop its prey. Because ants sting, anteaters need to eat quickly. Anteaters flick their tongues up to 160 times each minute and could spend only a single minute on every anthill.
Anteaters do not totally demolish a nest. They prefer to return and eat again in the future.
What Do Anteaters Eat Aside From Ants?
Aside from ants and termites, anteaters are also known to eat other insects such as soft-bodied grubs. Typically, anteaters like insects do not have powerful jaws or chemical defenses because anteaters cannot easily digest them.
Anteaters in captivity have a lot of different diets for the most part. They usually eat stuff such as mashed fruits and vegetables like avocados and bananas, ground beef, gruel mixes, hardboiled eggs, and small insects like grasshoppers.
How Do Anteaters Eat and Find Their Food?
Because anteaters do not have teeth, they rely on mastication and chewing of food in the wild. The munching is aided by small debris such as pebbles and soil which the anteater swallows along with the protein-rich insect meat.
Anteaters use their powerful sense of smell to look for good hunting grounds. As soon as the food is trapped by the tongue and enters the digestive system of the anteater, the insects are mashed against the hard palate of the anteater with the aid of flexible jaws and finally ground in the anteater’s muscular stomach. This is another clue about what do anteaters eat.
Other Facts About Anteaters
Anteaters usually move slowly with a unique shuffle. The reason for this is that they walk using their fists, with claws retracted or curled up in their paws. This retraction protects their claws from being dulled by contact with the surface of the ground.
Anteaters are also good swimmers because they use their long snouts like snorkels. According to a study, anteaters prefer termite mounds or anthills that already have wide openings rather than making cavities with their paws.
Also, anteaters have been known to favor one species of termites or ants over other species. Zoo anteaters favor the termite species Syntermes over other species such as Cornitermes or Velocitermes but this behavior might be different in the wild.