#FunFactFriday: Tamanduas can’t open their mouths more than the width of a pencil.

AJ2 (2)
Baby AJ of the Staten Island Zoo

This week’s installment of #FunFactFriday is brought to you by Nikki, one of the tamandua keepers at the Staten Island Zoo.

Even with their limited mouth mobility, tamanduas, or lesser anteaters, are still skilled insectivores. Their tongues (which can reach up to 16 inches long) are coated with sticky saliva that helps snag the ants and termites that make up the majority of their diet.

Tamanduas have other tools for finding a good meal. Besides their excellent hearing and sense of smell, they use their sharp claws to rip open termite mounds and anthills to feed. These claws are so sharp and strong that a tamandua must walk on the outside of its feet to avoid injury. They’re also skilled climbers and spend about 8 hours a day using their prehensile tails to forage in the trees.

Here’s four more fun facts about tamanduas:

  • Since it can’t chew and doesn’t have teeth, part of a tamandua’s stomach functions as a gizzard to grind its food.
  • Tamanduas can’t produce vitamin K on their own and must supplement their diet with fruit.
  • They are solitary creatures, except when breeding.
  • When threatened by a predator, a tamandua will hiss, produce a nasty smell from a scent gland under its tail (much like a skunk), and/or stand up on its hind legs and brandish its claws.

All (adorable) photos courtesy of Nikki.


#FunFactFriday is a biweekly series where I dedicate a post to a completely random, interesting fact – because the world is a pretty darn random, interesting place.

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