A Myrmecophagidae. This family is exclusively confined to South America, as are the two preceding, and it contains only the Hairy or true Ant-eaters. These curious animals feed chiefly upon Ants and Termites, which they catch with their long sticky tongues. The jaws are wholly destitute of teeth ; the body is covered with hair; there is a long tail; and the feet are armed with long and strong, curved digging-claws. The toes are united by skin up to the bases of the claws, as in the Sloths; the ungual phalanges are articulated in the same way; and the palms of the hands are similarly turned inwards, their sides carrying a callous pad.
The best-known species of this family is the Great Ant-eater (Myrmecophaga jubata). This singular animal attains a length of over four feet, and has an extremely long and bushy tail. The jaws are produced to form a long and slender snout, which is entirely enclosed in the skin, till just at its extremity, where there is an aperture for the protrusion of the thread-like tongue. A bird-like character is the horny gizzard-like stomach. The anterior feet have four, and the posterior feet five toes, all armed with strong curved claws, which, in the case of the fore-feet, when not used in digging, are bent inwards, so that the animal walks on the sides of the feet; whereas the soles of the hind-feet touch the ground. The animal is perfectly harmless and gentle, when unmolested, and leads a solitary life. It lives mainly upon Termites, into the nests of which it forces its way by means of the powerful claws. When the Termites rush out to see what is the matter, the Ant-eater captures them by thrusting out its glutinous tongue, an action which can be repeated with marvellous rapidity.
In the closely-allied genus Tamandua the feet are four-toed, and the animal is arboreal in its habits, as is also the case with the Cyclothurus. In the latter the fore-feet are two-toed, and the hind-feet are four-toed, with a rudimentary hallux. In accordance with their mode of life these forms have prehensile tails, and in the last-mentioned genus well-developed clavicles are present.