Specialist ant-eaters: Lack of teeth
The specialist ant eaters of South America, however, like the pangolin of Africa, have lost their teeth entirely. There are three species of them, the smallest being the Dwarf Ant eater (Cyclopes didactylus) which lives entirely in trees and exclusively on termites. A bigger version, the Tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla) is cat sized has a prehensile tail and short coarse fur. It too is a tree dweller but it often comes down to the ground. On the open plains, where termite hills stand as thick as tombstones in a graveyard, lives the Giant Ant eater (Mymecophaga tridactyla) which is about 2 metres long. Its forelegs are bowed, and its claws are so long that it has to tuck them inward and walk on the sides of its feet. With these claws it easily tear open termite hills. Its toothless jaws form a tube even longer than its forelegs. When it feeds, its huge thong of a tongue flicks in and out of its tiny mouth with great rapidity and probes deep into the termite hill.
All ant eaters are slow movers and are without teeth and armour to defend and protect themselves. The Dwarf Ant eater and Tamandua favour tree living ants and termites and spend most of their time up in the branches out of the way of most predators. The Giant Ant-eater is less defenceless than might at first appear. Its huge front claws can do severe damage even to a large predator such as the jaguar.