Northern Tamandua, Tamandua Mexicana

The northern tamandua (Tamandua Mexicana) is a small anteater that can be found from southern Mexico, throughout Central America, and to the edge of the Andes mountains. Its range also includes Venezuela, Ecuador, and Columbia. In these areas, the northern tamandua prefers a habitat within forested areas including mangrove swamps and evergreen, deciduous, cloud, and secondary forests. There are currently four recognized subspecies of this anteater.

The northern tamandua is considered a medium sized anteater, reaching an average body length between 3.3 and 4.2 feet and this includes the prehensile tail. Males and females differ only slightly in size, and the average weight of an adult ranges between 7.1 to 12 pounds. Its thick fur is typically pale yellow in color, with a black patch of fur that takes up the back, shoulders, and sides. This vest-shaped fur makes it possible to distinguish it from the southern tamandua, which is more constant in color.

Unlike the giant anteater, the northern tamandua prefers to spend a large amount of its time in trees, up to 40 percent of its day, making it an arboreal creature. The hind feet bear rough paw pads and prehensile toes that allow it to grip the branches it climbs. The northern tamandua is nocturnal, but it can be seen during the day. It is solitary, but will communicate with other individuals by scent markings. The harpy eagle and the jaguar are two of its known predators.

The tongue and mouth structure of the northern tamandua is different from that of other mammals, because it has adapted to the anteaters specific diet. It primarily feeds on ants and termites, although it has been known to eat fruit. It will sniff out between 50 to 80 nests a day, eating up to 9,000 insects. Although this number is large, there is little damage done to the nests, and it is thought that this is because the anteater does not spend long at each nest.

Female northern tamanduas are able to mate throughout the year, and males will locate the females by searching for scent markings. After a pregnancy of up to 190 days, one young is born. Typically, the baby anteater will remain hidden in a hollow tree until it is ready to explore the outside world by clinging to its mother’s back. Young are weaned and will strike out on their own at about one year of age. The typical lifespan of this anteater is not known, but one captive individual lived to be nine and half years old. The northern tamandua appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Least Concern”.

Image caption: A Tamandua anteater near the southern coastal track at Parque Nacional Corcovado, Costa Rica. Credit: DirkvdM/Wikipedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)