The Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), also known as the ant bear, is a large insectivorous mammal native to Central and South America. It is one of four living species of anteaters and is classified with sloths in the order Pilosa. This species is mostly terrestrial, in contrast to other living anteaters and sloths, which are arboreal or semiarboreal. The giant anteater is the largest of its family, 182–217 cm (5.97–7.12 ft) in length, with weights of 33–41 kg (73–90 lb) for males and 27–39 kg (60–86 lb) for females. It is recognizable by its elongated snout, bushy tail, long fore claws, and distinctively colored pelage.
The giant anteater can be identified by its large size, elongated muzzle, and long tail. It has a total body length of 182–217 cm (5.97–7.12 ft). Males weigh 33–41 kg (73–90 lb) and females weigh 27–39 kg (60–86 lb), making the giant anteater the largest extant species in its suborder. The head of the giant anteater, at 30 cm (12 in) long, is particularly elongated, even when compared to other anteaters. Its tubular snout, which ends in its tiny mouth opening and nostrils, takes up most of its head. Its eyes and ears are relatively small. It has poor eyesight, but its sense of smell is 40 times more sensitive than that of humans. Giant anteaters can live around 16 years in captivity.
The giant anteater is native to Central and South America. Its known range stretches from Honduras to northern Argentina, and fossil remains have been found as far north as northwestern Sonora, Mexico. It is largely absent from the Andes and has been extirpated in Uruguay. It may also be extirpated in Belize, Costa Rica and Guatemala. The species can be found in a number of habitats including both tropical rainforests and xeric shrublands, provided enough prey is present to sustain it.
The giant anteater may use multiple habitats. A 2007 study of anteaters in the Brazilian Pantanal found the animals generally forage in open areas and rest in forested areas, possibly because forests are warmer than grasslands on cold days and cooler on hot days. Anteaters can be either diurnal or nocturnal. A 2006 study in the Pantanal found those anteaters to be mostly nocturnal: they are most active during nighttime and early morning, and retire as the temperature rises. On colder days, anteaters start and end periods of activity earlier, shifting them into daylight hours, and may become diurnal. Diurnal anteaters have been observed at Serra da Canastra. Nocturnality in anteaters may be a response to human disturbances.