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Discovery Magazine 7/1/2014

The Anteater's Amazing Wet Noodle

Have you ever tried to touch your nose with your tongue? It may not be easy for most humans, but it’s not a problem for anteaters. Anteaters have tongues that can grow to be two feet long and are shaped like a wet spaghetti strand. Why did God give them such a long noodle?

Anteaters’ eyesight is not very good, but that’s okay, because their amazing sense of smell makes up for it. They detect their food with their noses instead of their eyes. Their prey are so small that they do not even need teeth to chew them up, so God didn’t give them any. But their tongues are very important for their survival.

Anteaters walk on their wrists in order to protect their special, dangerous, curly claws, which can be used to fight off pumas and jaguars. More importantly, when they detect anthills, termite nests, or beehives with their noses, they use those deadly, four-inch claws to break holes in the insects’ homes (which sometimes have very hard walls). Then they stick their very long snout in the holes, and flick their even longer tongues in to grab as many bugs as they can, as fast as they can.

Their tongues, which have sticky saliva and tiny, back-curved spines that are used to snag insects, can flick up to 160 times in a minute. (That’s almost three times a second! Can you do that?) God gave their tongue the ability to move that fast because within about a minute, the soldier insects of the nest come to the rescue and attack the anteater. So he has to quickly get what he needs and move to the next nest to finish his meal. Giant anteaters will eat as many as 35,000 ants, termites, and bees in one day. That must make them tired, because they sleep 15 hours each day. Even though giant anteaters can be seven feet long, they rarely destroy the nests they break into, which allows them to come back for more later!

Do you have an ant or termite problem at your house? Maybe you should consider getting one of God’s amazingly designed anteaters as a pet! Just don’t let ants crawl on you…unless you want to get licked with a long, wet noodle.

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