by Matthew Cobb
At Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Quito the baby Southern Tamandua (aka a lesser anteater) is weighed in a routine procedure. He’s less than two weeks old… To keep him happy, the zookeepers give him this teddy bear to cling onto (photos and info from www.zooborns.com):
Here’s a close-up of him being held by keeper Leslie:
And here he is, his arms around his bear pal, on the scales:
Southern Tamanduas, Tamandua tetradactyla, are found in scrubland in South America east of the Andes. The BBC website says it is:
An anteater with strong claws and a long, powerful, prehensile tail. Its coat is fawn to dark brown, and in some individuals from the south-eastern part of its range there is a black or dark brown ‘collar’ running from the shoulders to the rump. The nose and tail only have very short, sparse fur. As with otheranteaters, the nose and jaws are very long, the ears and eyes small, and the tongue can be extended 40cm from the mouth.
Tamanduas are solitary, active both during the day and the night, and spend a large proportion of their time in trees, using their long claws and prehensile tails for grip. The tail also acts as a prop on the ground, allowing the animal to stand on its hind legs and slash at attackers with its claws. They break open social insect nests with their claws, and then use their long sticky tongues to eat as many as they can very fast. They avoid solider ants or termites, and move on when the insects’ defences start to take action. They will also attack bees’ nests and feed on the grubs and honey.
Mating takes place in the autumn, and a single young is born in the spring after a 130-150 day gestation period. The young are born well developed, with a coat that ranges from white to black and lacks the adult markings. The youngster clings onto its mother’s back and is carried around, but is often hung on a branch nearby a favourite feeding spot or left in a nest of leaves.
Here’s a picture of what Quito might look like when he’s a little older (this one is three months old). As we’ve often noted here, there is a strong tendency for mammals to change their markings from infancy, for reasons (both genetic and evolutionary) that aren’t entirely clear, but must have something to do with their lifestyle and predation risks.
Finally, mother Tamanduas can take their babies for a ride—you can see why Quito is clinging to the bear:
And here’s a comparison of a Tamanduan foot with that of other Xenarthra – a two-toed sloth, a three-toed sloth and an armadillo.. As the Tamandua’s Latin name indicates, it has four toes:
h/t Sam Pearson on Twitter