Thursday, August 6, 2009

SPOTLIGHT ON FAUNA - Pigmy Silky Anteater

Once in a while when GreenTracks is doing a night walk in the rainforest we find a bizarre animal that looks for all the world like it was created by committee. Not much larger than a rat, and covered with fine soft fur, the Pigmy Silky Anteater (Cyclopes didactylus) has a prehensile tail like a monkey and a snout like an armadillo. This diminutive mammal is the smallest of the three anteater species found in the Amazon and it may be the most common. We say "may be" because they are difficult to encounter so no one really knows. But Silky Anteaters are so easily overlooked that they turn up close to human settlements on a regular basis. Finding one by day would be pure luck, but at night we are able to see details much more clearly than by day. Typically, Silky anteaters move slowly along horizontal branches around ten feet or so above the forest floor and they hunt for several prey species of ants that nest and forage at the same level. They use their strong, sharp claws to open ant tunnels in decaying wood and to support themselves as they climb. Although these anteaters are sleepy and easy going, they can defend themselves effectively using rapid slashes with their claws, so when one turns up we look but do not touch!!



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