The largest representative of the group is the Giant Anteater or Ant-bear (Myrmecophaga tridactyla or jubata), an animal measuring 4 feet (1.2 m) in length without the tail, and 2 feet (60 cm) in height at the shoulder. It has a long, thin head and a large, bushy tail. Its prevailing colour is grey, with a broad black band, bordered with white, starting on the chest, passing over the shoulder, and coming to a point near the loins.
It is extensively distributed in the tropical parts of South and Central America, frequenting low swampy savannas, along the banks of rivers, and the depths of the humid forests, but is nowhere abundant.
Its food consists mainly of termites, which it obtains by opening their nests with its powerful sharp anterior (front) claws. As the insects swarm to the damaged part of their dwelling, it draws them into its mouth by means of its long, flexible, rapidly moving tongue covered with sticky saliva.
The Giant Anteater lives above ground, not burrowing underground like armadillos. Though generally an inoffensive animal, when attacked it can defend itself with its sharp claws. The female produces a single young at a birth.
The two tamandua anteaters, as typified by Tamandua (or Uroleptes) tetradactyla, are much smaller than the Giant Anteater, and differ essentially from it in their habits, being mainly tree-dwelling. They inhabit the dense primeval forests of South and Central America. The usual colour is yellowish-white, with a broad black lateral band, covering nearly the whole of the side of the body.
The Silky Anteater (Cyclopes didactylus) is a native of the hottest parts of South and Central America, and about the size of a rat, of a general yellowish color, and exclusively tree-dwelling.