Aardvark and anteater are two unique long-snouted animals that are often confused with each other. If you look closely, one can easily distinguish between the two. The fact the geographical distribution of the two shows no significant overlapping also helps a lot. The term anteater is a common name that sometimes also refers to other unrelated species like numbat, pangolins, and echidnas. Here we are referring to the giant anteater, scientifically called the Myrmecophaga tridactyla as the anteater. Read on to find out more about aardvark vs anteater and some cool facts about the two.
Aardvark vs Anteater
1. Physical Characteristics
The anteater has a long-pointed head that ends in a long snout. The adults of the species can weigh up to 50 kg. The snout is the main feature of the skull and all other features like ears and eyes appear much smaller. This is also the reason why they do not have great eyesight. The fur coat is sandy brown with some patterns of dark black bands.
Image Source: Heather Paul
Their tail is very soft and bushy and the animals do not look less fluffy than a panda. Another peculiar feature is that on the front limbs they walk somewhat like gorillas that are weight resting on folded fists. They have a quite long tongues and are somewhat conical in shape. Its jaws do not open much, and the gap is only sufficient enough for the movement of the slim tongue.
The name aardvark in Afrikaans means earth pig and this pretty accurately describes what the animal looks like. The scientific name of the species is Orycteropus afer. They have curved back like rabbits and short legs. The tail is longer than that of the pig. The feature that leads to confusion with anteaters is its snout.
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It is long and pointed but flat in the front. The ears are also distinctive and much larger than those of anteaters. The weight usually is between 70 kg to 80 kg. This is at least 10 kg more than what the largest of anteaters weigh. The coat is plain and brown which blends into the earth. They also have a tongue typical of insect-feeding animals like anteaters which goes as much as 30 cm in length.
The typical aardvark can live as long as 23 years when cared for by humans in captivity. Anteaters only live up to 16 years in captivity and even less in the wild. They are the main prey animals for big cats in their respective habitat. Both anteaters and aardvarks have claws as their ultimate weapons which can severely harm even big pumas and lions and maybe even kill them.
3. Distribution and Habitat
Aardvarks are native to the African continent. Specifically, they are found in the sub-Saharan African region where the food is available in plenty. They prefer to live in grasslands, bushlands, savannahs, and woodlands where both food and cover are easily available.
Image Source: ucumari photography
Aardvarks are quick diggers and will dig a hole surprisingly quickly if threatened. Burrows is also their typical homes and where they give birth to young ones. Terrains that do not support the digging of burrows are void of aardvark populations. This includes rugged and rocky mountainous areas and swamps where water can destroy the burrow. However, latitude is not a problem, and they are also known to live as high as 3200 m in Ethiopian highlands.
Native to South America, the anteater is found in the tropical and temperate regions of South America. They can be found in regions south of Honduras as far as Paraguay. They can survive in any place from tropical rainforests to xeric shrublands as long as they can find enough food.
The shrinking of the amazon forests because of wildfires has proved to be catastrophic for the anteater population in recent times.
4. Reproduction behavior
Aardvarks only find a mate during the breeding season and then go separate again. The young ones drink their mother’s milk for less than 3 months and are able to make their own burrows at six months. Before the next mating season, it leaves the mother.
Anteaters, unlike aardvarks, do not have a specific mating season. The couple gets together for a two-three-day period and mates several times. The mother gives birth to the only baby at a time and carries it on her back for some time. The baby called a pup becomes independent by nine to ten months of age.
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5. Behavior and Traits
In the wild anteaters do not normally socialize and live solitary lives. They are found to be both nocturnal and diurnal in behavior with some studies attributing human activities as causes for this behavior. They rest in shrubs or tall grass not only to protect from predators but also according for cooling or warmth purposes. In cool temperatures, it can be found resting in a shallow hole with its fluffy tail as a blanket. The tail also acts as camouflage. Apart from this, anteaters can also swim and climb trees. They can use their strong and sharp claws to hold the branches of trees firmly.
Image Source: Tambako The Jaguar
Aardvarks are exclusively nocturnal animals and only eat ants and termites. The only plant product that they eat is cucumber which provides the moisture requirements of the animal. They cover a large area at night to fulfill their nutritional needs. While hunting they keep their nose close to the ground and their ears upright to catch the noise of any predators in the surroundings. Aardvarks live a nomadic life and will periodically abandon the old burrows and make new ones.
Anteaters are hunted in South America for meat. The demand for anteaters is mainly because of their hide and claws. In some cases, they are also killed for sport and because they are generally deemed dangerous animals. Development has also led to anteaters being killed in road accidents. They have been categorized as vulnerable on the IUCN list. Some national parks have also been set up to protect the species.
Aardvarks do not fall under any category of concern in the IUCN list. They are sparsely populated but over a huge region and that is why their numbers are estimated to be stable. It is one of the alarming differences between an aardvark vs anteater.
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