Northern Tamandua

Tamandua mexicana

tamandua mexicana


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Pilosa

Family: Myrmecophagidae

Genus: Tamandua

Species: mexicana

Distribution and Habitat:

The Northern Tamandua inhabits many different habitats, from deciduous and evergreen forest to mangroves and swamps. They are found in the forests from Southern Mexico, through Central America to Northern Venezuela and Northern Peru.


Tamandua mexicana resembles a middle-sized anteater. They have small eyes, big ears, a long snout, and a prehensile tail. The long snout has a mouth opening with the diameter of a pencil. The prehensile tail is hairless at the end and on its underside, which aids in climbing. Northern Tamandua’s fur is pale yellow/tan and has a distinctive black vest (“V”) over its back, shoulder, and sides. On each hand there are four clawed digits and the third clawed digit is the longest; however, the feet have five claws. In addition, the muscles in their toes allow them to grip the tree branches while climbing. Also the Tamandua mexicana has adapted to its unusual diet of ants and termites. They have a long, extensible tongue that is covered in sticky saliva to capture the ants and termites.


The Northern Tamandua are arboreal mammals and spend a majority of time in the trees. They are mainly nocturnal, but may be diurnal as well. They are active for about 8 hrs and then rest in the shelter of hollow trees. They also move, feed, and rest on the ground, too. Their movement on the ground is clumsy because they walk on the outside of their feed to prevent their claws from sinking into the ground. When the Northern Tamandua are attacked they sand up on their hind legs, drop the tail in the middle to form a tripod shape. In the trees the tail wraps around the branch for support; however, on the ground they lean up against a tree to protect their back. They use their arms to thrash at the predator with their claws.

Tamandua mexicana are solitary mammals and have a strong odor. The odor signals the Tamandua’s presence which sends animals retreating in the opposite direction. When they are attacked the Tamandua hisses at the predator and releases an odor from a gland at the base of its tail.

Food Habits:

The Tamandua mexicana’s specialized mouth and tongue allow them to eat ants and termites. Since they live an arboreal lifestyle they detect their prey by scent. The nests of ants and termites are ripped open with their powerful claws. Tamandua’s have developed away to detect ants that produce chemical toxins, like the leaf cutter ants. They also have the ability to distinguish a termite’s rank in their colony. “They will not eat soldiers of certain noxious termites, but will search out defenseless workers and eat them”(Harrold). The Tamandua can eat up to 9,000 ants a day!

Tamandua mexicana lack teeth, as a result, their stomach is divided into portions. Similar to birds, their stomach has a muscular gizzard to break down the food.


Tamandua mexicana has no defined breeding season. However, it is commonly observed that the male finds a mate in the fall and the female gives birth to one offspring in the spring. The females’ gestations period lasts from 130-190 days. The young Tamandua initially stays in the shelter of a hollow tree, but later clings and is carried on their mothers back. The young stay with their mother until one year of age before entering life on their own.

Economic/Ecological service:

The Tamandua mexicana keep the ant and termite populations under control. This is important for humans because it decreases the ant and termite damage on crops. This is significant in order to produce abundant and healthy crop products.

Recent research:

The recent research on the Tamandua mexicana varied from its expanding distribution to its fruit eating habits. The first study examined the expansion of the Tamandua mexicana population to the north along the Pacific coast (Burton and Ceballos). In this research, they found that the Tamandua mexicana is recently found in Colima, Mexico. This location is more northern than where they are typically found. In this paper they hypothesis that the population will continue to grow northward over time. The second study observed wild Northern Tamandua eating fruit, a behavior that is typical in captivity, but not in the wild (Brown). Brown proposed that they seek out fruit as part of their normal diet but due to the restriction of their specialized mouths not enough is consumed to be observed in their feces.


Please note that the following references may have either been removed or relocated by the webpage owners since the time this student report was created.

  1. Abba , Agustin Manuel, Flavia Regina Miranda, and Mariella Superina. "BioOne." The 2010 Anteater Red List Assessment. IUCN/SSC Anteater, Sloth and Armadilllo Specialist Group. Web. 27 May 2013.<>.
  2. Brown, Danielle. "Fruit-eating an Obligate Insectivore: Palm Fruit consumption in Wild Northern Tamandua (Tamandua mexicana) in Panama." Anteater, Sloth, and Armadillo Specialist Group. 12. (2011): 63-65. Web. 29 May. 2013.
  3. Burton, Andrew, and Gerardo Ceballos. "Northern-Most Record Of The Collard Anteater (Tamandua mexicana) From the Pacific Slope of Mexico." Instituto de Ecologia, Universidad Nacional Autonma de Mexico. 10. (2006): 67-70. Print.
  4. Carely, Alan. Tamandua anteater. (Tamandua anteater (Tamandua mexicana). N.d. Photograph. PR Science, Belize. Web. 27 May 2013.<>.
  5. Harrold, Andria. "Animal Diversity Web." Tamandua mexicana, Northern Tamandua. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, 22 May, 2013. Web. 27 May 2013. <>.
  6. Unknown, . "" Northern Tamandua (Tamandua mexicana). Catalogue of Life-2012 Annual Checklist, n.d. Web. 27 May 2013. <>.
  7. Unknown, . "San Diego Zoo: Zoonooz." Mammals: Tamandua or Lesser Anteater. San Diego Zoo. Web. 27 May 2013.<>.