Special Report: The Giant Anteater
By Kristine Hoang
We’ve seen the Anteater plush toys and Anteater logo tees at the UC Irvine bookstore. We know that “zot zot” is the sound an anteater makes while eating ants (at least according to Johnny Hart’s comic strip “B.C.,” which inspired our mascot). We definitely know that the anteater is our mascot, but how much do we know about the anteater itself? Here’s an animal report to ensure that you, an Anteater, will know all things cool and quirky about your mascot.
First things first: the anteater is also known as the “antbear.” “Anteater” in Spanish is actually “oso hormiguero,” which literally translates to “ant-eating bear.” So it’s probably not surprising for you to hear that anteaters, because of their bushy fur and claws, are often times mistaken for bears. Although their name strongly suggests that they eat ants (which is not a lie because they do), these “bears” also munch happily on termites, soft-bodied grubs and fallen fruit. Tricky there, I see!
Also, a tip: if you want to be fancy and impress your friends with your intelligence, tell them your school mascot is the “Myrmecophaga tridactyla” because, you know, everyone knows that means “Giant Anteater.”
Animal Planet Cribs
Think you know anything about Anteater Cribs? If you guessed swamps, savannas, riverbanks and the humid forests of South and Central America, then bravo! You deserve a pat on the back.
Let’s Get Physical
The anteater’s hairs feel like straw (as opposed to our soft and plushy stuffed animals), and its nose is actually an elongated jaw.
An anteater’s claws are its most important feature as it uses them for both food (to open insect colonies and tree trunks) and, along with its front legs, for fighting enemies. Though its vision is weak, its sense of smell is 40 percent more sensitive than that of humans. And, although the anteater is deprived of teeth, it makes up for it with its tongue, which measures up to a gnarly 2 feet long. How else did you think it’s able to swallow up to 35,000 critters a day?
Never Judge a Book by Its Cover
The best word to describe the anteater’s personality is “complicated.” Regardless of how social Peter is, anteaters are actually very solitary.
They usually maintain a calm exterior, but if they’re messed with, they’ll unleash their butt-kicking abilities. If a group of jaguars, cougars or fellow humans (the official “enemies” of our beloved anteater) ever attack, you know who to call.
Every Day They’re Shuffling
Anteaters are very talented, in the wild as well as in the classroom. We all know that our Anteater dancers are shuffling every day, but did you know the anteater animal shuffles too? In order to protect its claws and keep them sharp, anteaters walk on their fists instead of their paws (this is what scientists call the “shuffle” movement), making their jobs of digging up mounds for food and beating up jaguars that much easier. And if you thought shuffling was already enough of a talent, anteaters also swim! They swim in freestyle strokes while using their long snout as an adorable snorkel
An A.K. (Animal Kingdom) Census Bureau Report
Although anteaters are not yet endangered, habitat loss and hunting have caused a reduction in their numbers. In recent reports, less than 5,000 giant anteaters were found left in the wild. Luckily for us, however, there’ll always be one special anteater around named Peter — whether it’s at a UCI basketball game or somewhere as cheesy as our hearts.