ANT-EATER, a name given to several quite different mammals, but particularly ap plied to the Myrnsecophagide, a South Ameri can family of Edentata, with the head ex tremely long; the snout slender; the mouth, ears and eyes small; the tongue long, cylin drical and covered with a viscid saliva which holds whatever insects are licked up until the tongue can be withdrawn into the mouth. When not in use the tongue lies doubled up in the mouth. The legs are strong and heavy; the toes vary in number in the different species, but in all species are united as far as the base of the large claws, which are adapted to digging, but are turned under the feet when the animal walks. The great ant-eater or ant-bear (Myr mecophaga jubata), found in tropical South America, is a sluggish animal, forest-dwelling, but entirely terrestrial; it grows to a height of two its and a length of four feet, not includ ing ts long and very shaggy tail, which is often carried turned over its back like an umbrella. Though timid, it is capable of effective self defense, using its strong forearms to hug and tear its opponents. Its body color is gray, set off by a black band which crosses the breast and tapers to the top of the shoulders, and by white feet and forelegs. The hair is long, par ticularly on the back toward the tail, and on the tail itself. It is very unsocial, spending
much time asleep, curled up with its tail spread over it as a protection from sun or rain. As more than one is seldom produced at a birth, the great ant-eater is not numerous.
Another, much smaller, species (Tamandua tetradactyla), which is also tropical, is arboreal and has a prehensile tail. It is about the size of a cat; its head is broader in proportion than that of the great ant-eater; its hair is bristly and short, black on the body, yellowish white on the head, neck, forelegs and hindquarters. A third species (Cycloturus didactylus), the little or two-toed ant-eater, is still smaller than the tamandua and is also arboreal. Its claws are curved and very sharp for climbing, and its structure is peculiarly adapted for life in trees.
Besides the animals of. this family, called the true ant-eaters, are their allies, the scaly ant-eaters or Manids (see Maxis), the aard vark, the porcupine ant-eaters (see ECHIDNA) and certain insectivorous marsupials found in Australia and belonging to the genus Myr mecobius. Certain birds, such as the ant-shrike, are also called ant-eaters (see ANTBIRDS).