Squeeee – Quito the baby Tamandua

September 20, 2012 • 3:24 pm

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:

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The Tamandua has been separated from you and I for over 100 MYr, and from the sloth for over 55 MYr, says timetree.org . Photos from here, here, here and here.

h/t Sam Pearson on Twitter

22 thoughts on “Squeeee – Quito the baby Tamandua

    1. Curious that they were in the same enclosure as ring-tailed lemurs. I suppose their joint common ancestor was the same as ours, though we are closer to the lemurs. Xenarthrans & South America, Madagascar & lemurs – is the common link Antarctica? Amazing that continental drift took so long to be an explanation widely accepted – so recent – yet immediately so much biogeography must have fallen into place, like the Kerguelen sub-continent (just been reading about Hooker’s visit).

      1. Not especially curious given that the Sunshine International Aquarium occupies one floor of the World Import Mart Building in Tokyo; I imagine space is at a premium. These animals might be in the same enclosure for the simple reason that they tolerate each other.
        Speaking just for myself – I’m only closer to lemurs on my mother’s side.

  1. I read your blog frequently and always enjoy it, and I am nearly finished reading your fine and well-written book. But I was struck by a tiny pedantic thought while reading this post: “Correct” use of the objective case of the personal pronoun, rather than the nominative, must be a lost cause. On a %-used basis, I have observed that expressions like “separated from you and I” are now the norm. I guess Fowler has lost.

    My question for you: If I conform to your usage, will I appear more learned or less?

    1. LOL! I’m not responsible here: you may have noticed that this post was written not by me (proper use of personal pronoun), but by Matthew Cobb.

      1. Is it possible to give Matthew and Greg posting privileges under their own names, and reserve the whyevolutionistrue byline for you alone? That might help to avoid this sort of confusion.

        1. Well that’s what we do – we put a byline. But the blog (ha!) is WEIT. Sorry, I did write you and me but then edited it and it flipped into the “you and I” form. Must admit I am not too excised by this. Language evolves. And I love splitting infinitives…

          1. Yes, I did see that. But at the bottom it says “This entry was written by whyevolutionistrue”, and in the email alert it says “Squeeee – Quito the baby Tamandua by whyevolutionistrue”.

            What I’m asking is if there’s a way for those places to say “by Matthew Cobb” and not mention whyevolutionistrue at all, so it would be even clearer that the author of the book is not the author of this particular post.

            If it can’t (easily) be done, fine. But I thought it worth asking.

  2. Please. Jerry. I am a great fan of your work and have been a reader of your blog since Day 1. But if I could just make one request? Please. Please. PLEASE don’t say “Squeee” again. For me? There’s a good chap.

    As you were.

    1. The post was written by Matthew, not me. I don’t think we tailor our prose to specific readers, though. We won’t say “squee” for a year if you’ll donate $200 to Doctors without Borders!

        1. In defence of Matthew – my reaction was “Squee indeed!” and I put my $85 monthly donation to MSF/DWB (Canada) to the pro squealing with delight side.

  3. That’s my hometown zoo! Glad to see them getting some recognition. I’m planning to propose a t-shirt idea for them to give to park donors (because I love the gibbons): “Gibbon back to Reid Park Zoo.” My brothers already made me one for my birthday. We’ll see if it sticks.

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