This creature has to be one of the cutest in Costa Rica, but it’s also one of the hardest ones to find. And that’s largely because it’s usually active at night. But it also lives in the trees and curls itself up like a fuzzy softball. When you’re soft-ball sized in trees chock full of leaves, that makes you difficult to see.
Ball of anteater, anyone? Screenshot by Wired via YouTube video
But that’s just one of the facts about silky anteaters (Cyclopes didactylus). This tiny mammal is well named because its fur is silky soft and it eats ants, Animals Club notes.
Costa Rica Is Home To The World’s Tiniest Anteater
This illustration highlights the silky anteater’s prehensile tail, it’s elongated feet and curved claws that allow it to easily grasp branches. Image license Public Domain by DannyBoy 7783 via Wikimedia Commons
And this marvelous little creature has a number of adaptations that make it well-suited for a life in the trees. Like the monkeys that live in the trees in Costa Rica, this little pint-sized anteater, also called the pygmy anteater, has a prehensile tail, meaning it can hang around whenever it needs to. Prowling slowly through the trees, the anteater walks on elongated feet that are equipped with specialized joints. These joints allow the claws to be tucked underneath, preventing them from being worn down as the animal climbs.
The range of the silky anteater. Image license CC SA 3.0 by Chermundy/IUCN Red List of Threatened Species via Wikimedia Commons
Costa Rica isn’t the only place where you find silky anteaters
These little forest-dwellers are found from southern Mexico to Bolivia. They prefer areas of continuous forest because this allows them to travel from tree to tree without having to travel the ground where they are more vulnerable to predators. They live in Ceiba (also called Kapok) trees. And Ceiba trees have large seed pods that burst open and have silky fibers that look just the same as the little anteater’s fur.
Which makes these darling creatures even harder to see.
Silky anteaters prefer to hang out in Ceiba trees. Image license CC SA 3.0 by Atamari via Wikimedia Commons
With predators like the spectacled owl…
Adorably lethal, Spectacled owls are one predator the silky anteater has to look out for. Image license CC SA 4.0 by LG Nyqvist via Wikimedia Commons
…And the harpy eagle, blending in helps
The harpy eagle is truly impressive. Image license CC SA 2.0 by Eduardo Merille via Wikimedia Commons
In the shelter of the Ceiba trees, the little anteaters will sleep during the day, preferring to feed at night. When feeding time rolls around, the anteater slowly crawls from branch to branch, seeking ants, termites, beetles, and other crunchy bugs. Like other anteater species, it has a long sticky tongue that’s perfect for barging into ant or termite nests. And these fuzzies can scoop up as many as 8,000 ants daily.
C’mon little creature…don’t you want to live in my house? I’ve got plenty of nice termites for you. Screenshot by Wired via YouTube video
Seriously, I wish I could rent one of these creatures. You should see the termites in my house. I’m starting to believe Costa Rica is the termite capitol of the world. Okay, it’s probably not, but still…these bugs are really annoying here.
These whimsical creatures are also caring parents. Typically one baby is born after a gestation period of 120-150 days. Mom usually places her baby in a nest of dry leaves inside the hollow of a tree, AnimalDiversityWeb reports. Unusually, sometimes it’s dad who carries the youngster on his back. And both parents will feed junior a diet of regurgitated insects.
Well, mom and dad can move into my house and regurgitate a few thousand termites for baby. I won’t mind.
You can watch these adorable creatures in the videos below.
Featured image by Jaguar Rescue Center via YouTube video
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