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Anteaters

frightened anteater illustration

Do you know what scientists call an anteater?

  • Myrmecophaga (MUR-mih-koh-FAY-gah) Does that sound like Greek to you?
  • It should. It comes from two Greek words: Myrmeco means "ant" and phaga means "eater."

What family do anteaters belong in?

Anteaters are in a group of mammals that also includes sloths and armadillos.

The animals in this group used to be called Edentates (ee-DEN-tates). That word means "without teeth."

It's true that anteaters don't have teeth. But sloths have some teeth and armadillos have lots of teeth.

So now this group is called Xenarthra (zen-AR-thruh). Xen means "strange" and arthra means "joint." The "strange joints" in these animals are in their backbones, which are different from the backbones of other mammals.

And did you know that anteaters aren't the ONLY ant-eating animals?

boy with magnifying glass illustration

Ant-eating mammals include:

  • aardvark
  • armadillo
  • echidna
  • numbat
  • pangolin

There are also:

  • ant-eating birds
  • ant-eating lizards
  • ant-eating frogs
  • even ant-eating ants 

 

Would YOU ever eat ants?
 
 
Ant illustration by Danielle Jones
Boy illustration by Michael Slack

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