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As its common name suggests, the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) is the largest of the living anteaters and is instantly recognised around the world. They are strange-looking animals, with the body roughly divided into three equal regions: the long nose and head, the body and the tail. Beneath the skin of the long nose is a bone tube formed by the fusion of the upper and lower jaw. The nose houses an impressively long, sticky tongue, which can measure up to 50 centimetres in length. They are protected from the bites of soldier ants and termites by their rubbery skin and very long hairs, which can measure up to 45 centimetres in length. A black stripe runs from beneath the snout to the mid-torso and is banded by white or cream.. The front feet bear huge claws and giant anteaters walk on their knuckles with their claws folded up into their palms for protection. Male and female anteaters look so alike that females can only be identified when they are accompanied by their offspring. The name of the giant anteater in Portugese is 'tamandua-bandeira'; the word tamandua is of Indian origin and means 'insect-eater' and 'bandeira' is a portugese word meaning 'flag'. This name refers to the large tail of the species, which is thought to look like a flag.

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