The Southern Tamandua is a species of anteaters that are found in the dense forests of several South American countries, and are known in many other names like northern tamandua, lesser anteater, collared anteater, or simply, tamandua. Genetic evidence suggests that these semi-arboreal mammals may have diverged from their closest cousin, the giant anteater, 12.9 million years ago, during the late Miocene era.
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Southern Tamandua Scientific Classification
Table Of Content
Table of Contents
Size: The length can be anywhere between 21 and 31.5 inches (53.5 to 80 cm).
Weight: The species typically weighs around 10 pounds (4.5 kg).
Body Fur/hair/coat: Southern tamanduas possess short but dense fur. Their coat color varies depending on where they live, ranging from solid colors like black, brown or blond (without marks), to coats with bold, dark markings.
Head: The skull (head) is thin, narrow, and without a prominent neck region, which gradually narrows towards the snout.
Feet: The feet are strong, well-muscled (especially the forelimbs), and covered with dense fur, with the foreclaws bearing long, sharp nails.
Tail: The prehensile tail is long and quite strong (muscular at the base) at 15 to 23 inch (40 to 59 millimeters).
Sexual Dimorphism: There are no significant differences between the male and the female.
In the wild, the average lifespan of the tamanduas is nine years.
Distribution of Subspecies
The ranges of the four recognized subspecies of the southern tamandua are:
- Tamandua tetradactyla tetradactyla – the nominate subspecies found in the southern and the eastern parts of Brazil and Uruguay,
- Tamandua tetradactyla nigra – distributed throughout northern Brazil, Venezuela, Trinidad, Colombia, and the Guianas,
- Tamandua tetradactyla quichua – spread across Peru, Ecuador, and the extreme western regions of Brazil, and
- Tamandua tetradactyla straminea – ranging in Argentina, southern Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia.
Southern tamanduas are usually found in tropical rainforests, forests, savannas, mangroves, and scrub forests. These animals mostly prefer living close to water bodies including rivers and streams.
Except for the breeding season, the tamanduas are typically solitary creatures. They are shy animals, and it is difficult to study them. Scholars believe that they are primarily nocturnal; however, they have been observed being active during the daytime too.
Whenever awake, they are active typically for a period of eight hours, which they primarily spend foraging. Though they can move through the trees as ease, they are not much comfortable on the ground.
Their claws and muscular forelimbs are enough to help them defend themselves by fighting off several of the potential enemies. If attacked, these animals would stand on their two legs and attack the predator with their sharp nails.
The primary foods of the southern tamanduas are ants and termites. However, they have also been seen consuming bees and honey.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
The typical mating season of the tamanduas falls during the fall. The female of the species can have multiple estrus cycles throughout this period of breeding. The gestation period lasts for 130 to 150 days, and when over, the female gives birth to one single offspring.
They do bear twins at times, but that’s relatively rare. Like most of the other anteater species, the female carries the young juvenile on its back during the first month after birth. The babies remain with their mothers and depend on their care until they are about a year old. Soon after, they attain the age of sexual maturity and move on to lead an independent life.
- These anteaters have an elongated snout, and a cylindrical tongue of about 40 cm, which they use to slurp out ants and similar creatures from inside their underground holes.
- Southern tamanduas use their forelimbs and its long, sharp, ‘C’-shaped claws to dig out nests of underground insects.
- Since they have long, strong claws, they need to walk on the outside part of their feet so as to avoid getting themselves punctured.
- They have a prehensile tail which they use as a limb when climbing atop trees, as also while standing on two hind legs. Its underside is also hairless, which allows them to take the grip of the branches even more firmly.
- When threatened or disturbed, they have the ability to emit an unpleasant smell from their anal glands and make themselves extremely stinky, and hence repulsive, to their enemies.
- Because tamanduas are toothless creatures and unable to chew food, they possess a muscular gizzard in the stomach as compensation, which helps them in digesting food easily.
- Since they have poor senses of sound and vision, they can use their keen sense of smell to locate their prey.
The jaguar is one of the only predators of this creature to have been discovered so far.
The IUCN 3.1 has enlisted the species under their ‘LC’ (Least Concerned) list.
- The habit of spray a smelly scent has given them the nickname “stinkers of the forest”.
- These animals have one of the lowest body temperatures of all land mammals at 91° F (33° C).
- The inhabitants living in and around Amazon often use these mammals to get rid of ants and termites from their homes.
- The foul-smelling secretion sprayed by the creature is four times more powerful than a skunk’s.
- A record amount of 1 pound (0.45 kg) of ants was found inside the stomach of a specimen.