The Daily Species #106:
Northern Tamandua (Tamandua mexicana)
The northern tamandua is a species of tamandua, a small anteater in the family Myrmecophagidae. They live in tropical and subtropical forests from southern Mexico, through Central America, and to the edge of the northern Andes
The northern tamandua is a medium-sized anteater with a prehensile tail, small eyes and ears, and a long snout. Like other anteaters, the northern tamandua is highly adapted to its unusual diet. The tongue is long, extensible, and covered in sticky saliva able to pick up ants and termites. It has unusually well developed muscles, attached to a large hyoid bone and rooted to the top of the sternum. The entire oral cavity is modified to accommodate this tongue, and is so elongated that the back of the soft palate is level with the fifth cervical vertebra near the base of the neck, rather than at the top of the pharynx as in most other mammals. The jaw muscles and mandible are reduced, and the latter is particularly fragile. Like other anteaters, the northern tamandua has no teeth.
In addition to its diet, and unlike the giant anteater, the northern tamandua is also adapted to an arboreal lifestyle. The muscles of the toes and the presence of a tough pad on the palms makes the forefeet prehensile, enabling them to grip onto projections as it climbs. The middle toe of the forefeet also bears an unusually large claw, and the toe has enough muscle and leverage to allow it to rip open wood to get at the ants within.