© Diego Mosquera 2019

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Sloths and Anteaters

Sloths and anteaters are classified together in an order called "Pilose". These animals have joints in their vertebrae that no other mammal has.

Giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla)


This is a very interesting animal. They do not have teeth but rather a very long tongue that can reach 40 centimeters. They feed mainly on ants and termites and therefore have very pointed and strong claws of up to 10 centimeters, in order to destroy the nests. Once they make a hole in a termite mound, they stick their tongue out and in that way they can eat thousands of termites in a little while. The termites bite their tongues, so they can not spend much time feeding on a single nest. They are a little blind, that is why they are guided more by the sense of smell. As you can see in the photo, they have a very long tail and a lot of hair, which is useful among other things to scare away predators. If they are threatened they can raise their tails to look bigger than they are. Although they are not aggressive, they defend themselves with a lot of determination. If they stand on two legs, in many cases they exceed two meters in height. Many times they are seen carrying their young on their back!

Tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla)


These animals live only in South America. They tend to be solitary and spend a lot of time in the trees looking for nests of ants and termites. When they are on the ground they tend to move erratically, unlike the giant anteaters, which move very well on the ground. They are active day and night and live in hollow trunks. They are very nice animals, but victims of illegal hunting (in some places farmers kill them because they say they kill dogs) and illegal trafficking, as pets. Although this photo is not the best, a Tamandua can be seen at a very early in the morning when moving on the ground.

Family Megalonychidae


Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni)


Sloths are solitary, nocturnal and arboreal animals. This particular species, as the name implies, has two fingers, although there is another species that has three fingers. They feed on leaves, that is, they have a low energy diet, hence their slow movements. Their metabolism goes at half the speed of a mammal of the same size! They spend most of their lives in the trees and there they do practically everything, from eating, mating, sleeping and even dying. Sometimes, however, they go down to the ground and go to the salt licks to eat clay, the same one that serves as a mineral supplement.


(Family Dasypodidae)

Giant Armadillo (Priodontes maximus)


The giant armadillo is a very rare animal. They have a kind of shell that covers their entire body, which although it seems very hard, is quite flexible. This serves to protect them from predators. You can see them very lucky at night, when they walk through the forest looking for something to eat. They make very large holes when they find things like ants, larvae or tubers in the ground. In a very short time they can make a huge hole, because they have very sharp claws that they use to dig.

In those holes they also rest during the day. Their senses are not very developed, except for the smell, which is very important for them because they detect their food with it. Like almost all the animals in the forest, they are victims of indiscriminate hunting and trafficking. They say that it has been possible to pay up to USD $ 500,000 for a live specimen in Peru.

Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)


These armadillos are relatively small, reaching up to about 50 cm. They have between 8 and 10 plates on their body and move very fast. They live in many types of habitat and are active above all at night. They eat termites, ants and other insects, apart from snails and small amphibians. It is said that they are the only animals that can inflate their intestines to float when crossing rivers and that they can hold their breath for up to 6 minutes. It is also known that they can jump up to more than one meter in height.


Tirira, D., 2007. Guía de Campo de los Mamíferos del Ecuador. Ediciones Murciélago Blanco. Publicación especial sobre los mamíferos del Ecuador 6. Quito. 576 pp.