Silky anteater

Cyclopes didactylus

TAXONOMY

Cyclopes didactylus (Linnaeus, 1758), Suriname. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Pygmy, golden or two-toed anteater; French: Flor de balsa; German: serafin; Spanish: Angelito, tapacara, gato balsa.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Total length 12-21 in (32-52 cm); weight 6-13 oz (175— 357 g); tail length 6-12 in (16-30 cm). Small arboreal mammal with long, wavy, soft and silky fur. Silvery gray to golden yellow in color with a brown mid-dorsal stripe. Small tubular mouth with a pink nose. Tail is highly prehensile. There are two toes on each forefoot, each with large curved and sharp claws. Four toes on each hindfoot, each with small claws. The hindfoot is highly modified to grasp small branches.

DISTRIBUTION

Mexico, Central America, Brazil, Peru and Bolivia. HABITAT

Lives among the trees and lianas of moist tropical forests, rarely descending to the ground. The silky anteater shows a preference for the crown of the silk-cotton tree of the genus

Ceiba, it is concealed very well among the golden fibrous seed pods produced by this tree.

BEHAVIOR

Nocturnal, slow-moving and inoffensive; however, it will defend itself with quick, forceful slashes of the powerful claws. Silky anteaters rarely spend more than one day in the same tree. Their principal predators are harpy eagles (Harpia harpyja), eagle-hawks, and spectacled owls (Pulsatrix perspicillata).

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Forages about the canopies of trees in search of arboreal insects, predominantly ants. Its small size and specialized hind foot allow the silky anteater to use higher and smaller branches and associated ant colonies that larger insectivores cannot physically access. Adults typically consume about 5,000 ants per day.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Usually a single young is born after a gestation period of 120-150 days. Depressions or holes in trees that are partially filled with dry leaves are often used as nests. May be polygy-nous.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened. However, this is a very secretive and solitary species, which makes a census very difficult. Also, this species has a poor husbandry record in captivity, seldom surviving for more than 30 days. The longevity record for this species in captivity is two years and four months. At the time of this writing this species was not represented in captivity.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS Occasionally hunted for food. ♦

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