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Anteater Diet

June 27, 2018

How giant anteaters get enough food into their tiny mouths to survive.


(Projeto Tamanduá/

Giant Anteater. (Projeto Tamanduá/


How big anteaters survive on little ants. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.


Science Update listener Arthur Magida of Baltimore wants to know how giant anteaters can survive on a diet of tiny ants. We asked anteater researcher Mariella Superina, at the Institute of Experimental Medicine and Biology in Argentina. She said the big mammals are able to devour 30,000 insects per day.

MARIELLA SUPERINA (Institute of Experimental Medicine and Biology, Cuyo, Argentina):

Anteaters have very strong claws that help them open these termite nests.


And a long, sticky tongue attached to their chest bone. They also have no teeth and don’t chew their food.


Imagine the time an anteater would waste chewing every single ant.


Finally, they burn calories at just a third the rate of other mammals their size, partly by spending the better part of each day resting. If you have a science question, call us at 1-800-WHY-ISIT, or email us from our website science update dot com. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon