Southern Tamandua

(Tamandua tetradactyla)

Southern tamanduas have short dense fur. Their coat color varies depending on where they live. In the south, they have bold dark markings over their shoulders and back, while the rest of their bodies range from brown to blond. In the north and west, they may have lighter markings or be a solid color—black, brown or blond—and have no markings. The underside of their tails is fur-less; this allows them to grip tree branches more securely as they move through the trees. The enormous front claws help tamanduas climb. They have four toes on the front feet, with an extra-long claw on the third toe. These long claws cause tamanduas to walk on the outside edges of their front feet so the claws don’t dig into their feet! The important claws are also used for defense and when digging for food. A tamandua’s prehensile tail comes in handy for spending time in the trees. The underside and end of the tail is hairless, and the tail is used like an extra hand or foot while climbing. A tamandua also uses the tail for balance or like a tripod when needing to stand upright to slash out with the sharp, curved claws. The thick tail also makes a great pillow when sleeping.

Tamanduas hiss and emit an unpleasant odor from their anal glands when threatened or disturbed. They can also defend themselves using their impressive claws and strong forelimbs. If a predator attacks them in a tree, tamanduas stand on their hind legs balancing themselves with their tail, and reach out with their claws and strong arms until the predator approaches.

Tamanduas are found throughout much of South America. An adaptable species, southern tamanduas can be found in forests, savannas, tropical rainforests, scrub forests, and mangroves, but most commonly occur near streams and rivers.

Tamanduas mostly eat arboreal ants and termites, though they also eat honey and bees. The tamandua’s mouth is only as round as a pencil. They use their forelimbs and claws to excavate insect nests, then use their elongated snout and tongue to slurp up prey. Tamanduas are toothless species, but have a muscular gizzard in the stomach to help them digest their food.

Information collected from and