True anteaters, in the strictest sense, are both few and extremely aberrant

(writing in progress)

Everyone knows that various animals are 'anteaters', viz. specialised for a diet of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ant). These include mammals both placental and metatherian, birds (e.g. terrestrial woodpeckers), snakes (e.g. Typhlopidae), and various invertebrates (e.g. mygalomorph spiders), including certain species of ants themselves, predating other ants.

However, the loose use of the term 'anteater' hides a noteworthy biological pattern and principle.

This is that

  • extremely few animals actually eat the imagos of ants as their main diets, and
  • those that do are extremely aberrant in body-form and function, possibly owing to the energy-poverty of this food.

The confusion/obfuscation has arisen at several levels.

Firstly, 'anteaters' usually eat termites - which are completely unrelated to ants because the belong to the order Isoptera, not Hymenoptera - as well as ants.

Although termites, like ants, constitute energy-poor food, they allow a dietary diversification that hypothetically makes all the difference for the survival of 'anteaters'.

So, we can narrow our search-image to those animals in which the diet consists mainly of ants in the narrow/strict sense, viz. Formicidae.

Secondly, even 'true anteaters' usually rely on the eggs, larvae, and/or alates (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alate) of ants, rather than just the imagos (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imago). These 'reproductives' tend to be relatively rich as food for animals predating ants, because they tend to be relatively rich in lipid (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lipid), and relatively free of fibre (chitin, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chitin) and toxins.

Thus, what is not generally appreciated is that

  • specialised ant-eaters have aberrant (peculiar/odd, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/aberrant) body-forms and ways of life, and
  • this aberrational pattern can logically be related to the energetic and biochemical limitations that are peculiar to ants as food for insect-eating animals.

The basic idea is that

Among birds, the only true anteaters are

Posted on August 10, 2023 02:28 AM by milewski milewski

Comments

Note dispersal of Myrsine and Rapanea by this ant-eating woodpecker:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green-barred_woodpecker

Posted by milewski 12 months ago
Posted by milewski 12 months ago

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