21 Facts That Prove Giant Anteaters Are Secretly The Coolest Animals On The Planet

Beneath this dopey exterior lies a finely-tuned ant eating machine.

1. Look at this tongue. It’s two feet long.

Flickr: ellenm1 / Creative Commons

No other mammal has a tongue as long relative to its body size.

2. They can do crazy things with this tongue.

thinkstock / belizar73

It’s sticky and has spikes, and anteaters can flick their tongues more than 150 times per minute to suck up bugs without getting bit or stung.

3. With a tongue like that anteaters don’t need to bother with teeth.

They just mash ants against the roof of their mouth.

4. Giant anteaters are really good at what they do. They eat more than 35,000 ants and termites every day.

Dave Pape

That’s the population of Manhattan every month and a half. But, you know, in ants instead of people.

5. Anteaters are cunning. When they feed, they don’t completely destroy the nests so they can return later to feast on more ants.

thinkstock / dbvirago

Can you imagine what that’s like for the surviving ants? Knowing that the thing that ate your friends could come back at any time?

6. Giant Anteaters’ scientific name means “ant-eating with three fingers,” but that’s selling them short because they actually have five awesome toes on each foot.

Mateus Hidalgo / Creative Commons

Anteaters have four big ol’ claws and a smaller vestigial toe. Three of these claws are more prominent than the others, however.

7. Their claws are so big and sharp that they walk on their knuckles to keep them out of the way.

thinstock / Christian Musat

Gorillas also walk on their knuckles, except they don’t have knives for fingers.

8. They can use these badass claws to fight off jaguars. Jaguars.


They rear up on their hind legs and swipe at their attackers with their massive claws. So just because you’re not an ant doesn’t mean you’re safe.

9. Anteaters can kill people.

FRANS LANTING/National Geographic Creative

It doesn’t happen often, but it’s possible. In 2007 a giant anteater fatally mauled a young zookeeper near Buenos Aires. Officials said it may have been in heat or protecting its young.

10. They’re misunderstood. In the 1700s, most Europeans believed that all anteaters were female and that they mated with their noses. Try not to think about that too hard.

thinkstock / belizar73

Because Europeans didn’t have much exposure to the New World animal, they made some, uh, incorrect assumptions.

11. Anteaters are practical. They use their babies to make themselves look bigger and protect themselves.

Flickr: nationalzoo / Creative Commons

Baby giant anteaters spend up to the first two years of their lives with their mommies, and spend most of their first year clinging to mom’s back. Their similar coloring makes giant anteater moms look even bigger to predators.

12. Anteaters know how to use what they’ve got. Their sense of smell is 40 times stronger than ours.

thinkstock / Walter Arce

But their eyesight is not very good. Whatever. Nobody is perfect.

13. Anteaters are champion freestyle swimmers.

MITSUAKI IWAGO/ MINDEN PICTURES/National Geographic Creative

Their mouths make for a great snorkel.

14. Giant anteaters are so chill that they have the lowest body temperature of any mammal.

THEO ALLOFS/ MINDEN PICTURES/National Geographic Creative

Because bugs don’t provide anteaters with a ton of energy, they have slow metabolisms and a body temperature of only 90.86 degrees Fahrenheit.

15. Giant anteaters care about their hygeine and are known to take baths.

Unlike most mammals who bathe, giant anteaters don’t sweat, nor do they need to use cool water to help regulate their body temperature. It may be to rid themselves of any ants that didn’t end up as a meal, or perhaps just because they enjoy it.

16. Giant anteaters have been around for 25 million years, so they have a history.

Trillions of ants have perished at their hands… errr, snouts.

17. Sloth’s are one of anteaters’ closest relatives, and everybody loves sloths.

Via gph.is

Sloths, anteaters, and armadillos all belong to a group of mammals called Xenarthra.

18. Anteaters were tricksters in mythology and pulled some pretty epic pranks.


In one myth from the Shipibo — a group of people from the Peruvian Amazon — the anteater tricked the jaguar into switching pelts, and ever since all anteaters are really jaguars, and vice versa.

19. The University of California at Irvine’s mascot is an anteater, and he’s buff as hell.

UC Irvine / Via uci.edu

The campus voted on Peter the Anteater — inspired by the comic strip B.C. — to be their mascot in 1965. It beat out the other options of an eagle, unicorn, seahawk, and the runner-up option “none of these.”

20. It somehow took until 2010 for there to be an anteater Pokémon, but he looks like a boss.

Nintendo / Ken Sugimori / Via bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net

It’s a fire type named “Heatmor,” and it’s shaped like an engine’s muffler.

21. Plus Salvador Dali thought they were cool.

He once walked a giant anteater on a leash around Paris. ‘Nuf said.

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