Southern tamandua

Tamandua tetradactyla

TAXONOMY

Tamandua tetradactyla (Linnaeus, 1758), Pernambuco, Brazil. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Collared anteater, lesser anteater; French: Tamandua-colete; German: Termieteneter; Spanish: Oso colmenero.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Total length 37-58 in (93-147 cm); weight 7-16 lb (3-7 kg); tail length 16-26 in (40-67 cm). Pale golden yellow with a black "vest" over the shoulders, chest, belly and lower back. The vest is highly variable and may cover the entire body or be totally absent. Prehensile tail, head long and curved downward, long coarse hair. Forefeet with four long, powerful curved claws. Hindfeet with five smaller claws. Tamanduas walk on the outside of the hand with the claws turned inward.

DISTRIBUTION

East of the Andes from Venezuela to Argentina and Uruguay.

HABITAT

Savanna, thorn scrub and dry forests, rainforest. BEHAVIOR

Nocturnal, crepuscular, or diurnal. Tamandúas are opportunistically terrestrial and arboreal depending on terrain and available resources. When threatened it may hiss and release a fowl odor from the anal gland. As a last resort they will defend themselves with the powerful foreclaws and often grab and hold the opponent, keeping it away from the body. Tamanduas seek shelter in hollow trees or holes in the ground.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Opportunist feeding on terrestrial as well as arboreal ants and termites. It can open arboreal nests too tough for silky anteaters. They occasionally feed on bees and honey.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

May be polygynous. Mating takes place in the fall, usually a single young is born in the spring after a gestation period of 130-150 days. The offspring is carried on the back of the mother for about a year, gradually becoming self sufficient. Tamanduas commonly reproduce in captivity and have survived for more than 9 years.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Sometimes used by Amazonian Indians to rid their homes of ants and termites. ♦

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