The UTC Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences has a new specimen to add to its collection in the UTC Natural History Museum. A six-foot-long, nearly 100-pound one. The department recently received a specimen of a giant anteater from the Nashville Zoo. The animal died of natural causes.
According to Dr. Timothy Gaudin, UC Foundation Professor and Associate Head of the UTC Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, the giant anteater specimen will be used for research and classroom demonstrations.
The giant anteater is a large terrestrial mammal native to Central and South America. Largest of the four species of anteaters, the animal primarily lives in tropical forests and grasslands, feasting on ants, termites, and other insects.
Giant anteaters have several unique characteristics.
“Giant anteaters have the largest claw of any mammal. Located on the third digit of their paw, it’s usually between two to three inches in length. That claw makes the giant anteater extremely dangerous. When threatened, the animal will rear up on its hind legs and slash predators with its claw. Though they seem docile, giant anteaters have been known to kill jaguars and other large animals,” Gaudin said.
“Giant anteaters have no teeth. Instead, they use their tongues to eat. Their tongue can grow to be more than two-feet long, and is one of the longest tongues of any mammal,” he continued.
The specimen of the giant anteater came from a large group of 15 anteaters in the Nashville Zoo. The zoo has the largest colony of giant anteaters in North America. The animals are currently located not on exhibit.
The UTC Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences has enjoyed a good relationship with the zoo over the years. Professors regularly take classes to visit and receive behind-the-scenes tours to get a closer look at the animals.
“Students enjoy getting to see and interact with the animals. I can describe an animal in class, but getting to study it in person helps students in the learning process,” Gaudin said.
Several UTC students are working with Gaudin this summer to prepare the specimen. Their tasks include dissecting and skinning the animal. Once the skeleton is prepared, the specimen will be used for departmental research and then put on display. The department will also keep the pelt of the animal.
“A giant anteater is such an extraordinary animal for students to dissect and study. Their anatomy and characteristics are so unique. Getting to study an animal that’s so unusual makes for a great learning experience for students,” Gaudin said.