Tamandua mexicana characteristics, habitat, feeding, reproduction

Philip Kelley

Mexican tamandua, Popularly known as the Mexican anteater, it is a placental mammal that belongs to the Myrmecophagidae family. It lives in the subtropical and tropical forests that extend from the southern part of Mexico, through Central America, to the northern area of ​​the South American Andes..

It is characterized mainly by its bristly coat. This one has on the flanks and the back a kind of black vest, which stands out from the rest of the body, which is pale yellow..

Mexican anteater. Source: José R. [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

Other peculiarities of this species are the strong claws on its front legs. These structures are used to gain access to the nests of the ants and to defend themselves against the threats of any predator..

Its snout is elongated, ending in an opening of a diameter similar to that of a pencil. Through this hole, the Mexican anteater sticks out its long and sticky tongue, thus being able to catch its favorite prey: ants and termites..

Article index

  • 1 Features
    • 1.1 - Fur
    • 1.2 - Size
    • 1.3 - Adaptations
  • 2 Habitat and distribution
    • 2.1 Distribution
    • 2.2 Habitat
  • 3 Feeding
    • 3.1 Specializations
  • 4 Playback
    • 4.1 Courtship and mating
    • 4.2 The breeding
  • 5 Behavior
  • 6 References 


The Mexican anteater has a prehensile tail. It lacks hairs in the distal area, but has irregularly distributed black spots. On the head, there are two prominent ears. In relation to the eyes, they are small.

As for the body, it is robust and its legs are short, thick and strong. The hind limbs have five toes, while the forelimbs have four.

Each finger has a claw. The claw on the third digit of the foreleg is very long, measuring 2.5 to 5 centimeters. The rest of the toes have reduced claws, the first finger being the smallest. The animal uses these structures to defend itself and to break the nests of ants and termites..

- Fur

The fur of the Mexican tamandua it is thick, short and dense. Most of the body is pale yellow or golden brown. Above this tone, a distinctive black patch stands out, similar to a vest. This covers the area of ​​the back and flanks.

The presence of this color pattern allows a distinction to be made between this species and its southern relative (Tamandua tetradactyla), which has a more uniform color.

On the other hand, the young have a pale yellow tone, acquiring the adult coloration when they are around three years old..

- Size

In this species, females and males are very similar in color and size. Thus, the total length of the body varies from 102 to 130 centimeters, including the tail that measures between 40 and 68 centimeters. In relation to weight, the adult weighs 3.2 to 5.4 kilograms.

- Adaptations


The Mexican tamandua it has special morphological adaptations, related to its unusual diet, based on ants and termites. In this sense, it has a long tongue, which can extend up to 40 centimeters.

The entire oral cavity is modified to conform to the characteristics of the tongue. Thus, it is very elongated, so much so that the posterior area of ​​the soft palate is level with the fifth cervical vertebra, located near the base of the neck. In the vast majority of mammals, the palate is level with the upper region of the pharynx.

In addition, the oral apparatus has strong and developed muscles. This joins the hyoid bone, rooting in the upper part of the breastbone. Like the rest of the species of the order Vermilingua, the Mexican anteater lacks teeth.


On the other hand, this mammal also adapts to arboreal habits. In this sense, its front legs are prehensile, due to the strong muscles of its fingers. Thus, the animal can hold on to the trunk, while climbing up this.

Also, the huge claws on its front legs and the muscles associated with the toe create a lever. This allows the Mexican anteater to tear the wood and thus have access to the ants that are inside.

Habitat and distribution


The Mexican tamandua It is distributed in Central America and South America. Thus, it ranges from the southeastern region of Mexico to southern Central America. In addition, it extends throughout the western Andes, from northern Venezuela to the northwestern area of ​​Peru..


The habitat of this mammal is very wide, being able to live in mature tropical forests, grasslands with trees, arid savannas, gallery forests and plantations. In addition, it is found in mangroves, mixed evergreen and deciduous forests, and cloud forests. The species can survive in disturbed habitats and secondary forests.

These ecosystems can be found from sea level to 2,000 meters above sea level. However, the vast majority of sightings have been in areas below 1,000 meters above sea level..

To feed, they do so both in the canopy and on the ground. The Mexican tamandua prefers areas near streams, as well as trees with abundant epiphytic and creeper plants. The reason for this may be associated with the fact that these plant species harbor a large number of termite and ant nests..


The Mexican anteater feeds almost exclusively on termites and ants. However, a third of their diet is restricted to ants. This may vary, depending on the seasons. Thus, during the winter, on the island of Barro Colorado, Panama, termites are the most frequently consumed insects..

On the other hand, this species can capture and ingest bees and their honey. Also, occasionally, you may eat small servings of fruit..

Within the group of insects, this animal prefers the large ones, which are more than 4 millimeters long. Favorite ant genera include Azteca, Camponotus, and Crematogaster. As for termites, he prefers those that make up the genus Nasutitermes, Armitermes, Coptotermes, Calcaritermes, Microcerothermes Y Leucotermes.

This species can eat up to 9,000 insects daily, corresponding to between 50 and 80 different nests. To locate them, use your keen sense of smell. Once it locates the nest, it excavates it with its powerful claws. Then, he introduces his long and sticky tongue into it, where the insects adhere.


The Mexican Tamandua it has specialized its diet, selecting among the group of ants those that, among other reasons, are easier for it to capture. Thus, he has an aversion to army ants and others, which produce chemical defenses.

In addition, this animal is able to differentiate the existing castes in the social groups of termites. This mammal does not eat soldier termites, but instead hunts for the defenseless worker termites. In the case of ants, the diet includes almost 2.3 times more worker ants than soldier ants.


The mating of the Mexican anteater is seasonal. Due to this, it varies according to the region where you live. Thus, in Mexico, the highest proportion of births occurs in March, while in Nicaragua it occurs in June and July..

Courtship and mating

The male locates the fertile female by her scent. Once he is close to her, he smells her rear, while following her everywhere. During the journey, the male strikes her with his forelimbs, being able to sit or throw himself on it..

Likewise, he tends to stare at her for a short time, grabbing her by the head. Faced with these behaviors, the female is antagonistic, trying to avoid them or fleeing from the male. In this sense, both can stand on their hind legs, facing each other, aggressively swinging their front legs..

When the female is receptive, the couple copulates. During this process, the male mounts her from the upper part of the trunk, using the front limbs to support her neck and front legs..

If the pair is on a fallen log, the male holds onto it with his prehensile tail. In this way he obtains stability while holding the female. Once the mating is completed, both go to the forest independently.

The brood

The gestation of the young lasts between 130 and 190 days. At birth, it spends most of its time inside the nest, usually located inside a hollow tree. To get around, the young man climbs on his mother's back. When it is going to feed, it places it on the branch of a tree. This protects you from the threats of predators.

The female takes her young from one place to another, protects and cares for her until she stops being suckled. When the youngster is around one year old, he becomes completely independent from his mother.

In this video you can see a newborn baby:


The Mexican anteater is a solitary animal with nocturnal habits, however, they can perform certain tasks during the day. These activities are affected by sunlight and temperature. This is why the animal rests during the noon hours, taking refuge inside the hollow trees.

In addition, it is an arboreal species, spending more than half of its time in the trees. However, it can also move, eat and rest on the floor. When he walks, he does so with clumsy steps and cannot gallop, as giant anteaters do..

ForestFinance [CC BY-SA 3.0 DE (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)]

When threatened, it defends itself by assuming a tripod position, using its tail to hold onto a tree or rock. Then it attacks a predator with its front leg, which has a powerful claw..


  1. Wikipedia (2020). Northern tamandua. Recovered from en.wikipedia.org.
  2. Harrold, A. (2007). Mexican tamandua. Animal Diversity Web. Recovered from animaldiversity.org.
  3. Ortega Reyes, J., Tirira, D.G., Arteaga, M., Miranda, F. (2014). Mexican tamandua. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014. Recovered from iucnredlist.org.
  4. Daya Navarrete, Jorge Ortega (2011). Mexican tamandua (Pilosa: Myrmecophagidae). Recovered from academic.oup.com.
  5. David Matlaga (2006). Mating Behavior of the Northern Tamandua (Tamandua mexicana) in Costa Rica. Recovered from bioone.org.

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