Anteaters are famous for their distinctive long snouts and sticky tongues. After all, it’s those very features that allow them to easily work into ant and termite nests and eat their prey.
At the same time, nature has a way of finding ideal shapes. After all, five different groups of crustaceans independently became crabs. And, there are 8 different animals with at least a passing resemblance to anteaters.
Of course, anteaters are a little bit unique. There are only four living species and they’re only related to two other groups, sloths and armadillos.
In addition, with more than a 10-fold increase in size between the smallest (14-16 inches long) and the largest (5’8”-5′ 11” long), there’s a lot of diversity even in four species.
Still, you might be interested in these other animals that look like anteaters.
Scientific Name: Manidae (Family)
Summary: Pangolins look so much like anteaters they’re also known as “scaly anteaters”.
Pangolins look so much like anteaters that they’re sometimes called “scaly anteaters”. Like their namesakes, pangolins also survive on ants, termites, and other small insects.
Unfortunately, all pangolins are also endangered. That’s despite the fact that there are 8 different species of pangolins, spread across 3 genera. They’re also native to both Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Pangolins are also unique in that they’re the only mammal with scales. Those scales are made of keratin, much like in your fingernails and hair, and actually attach as fingernails do.
They provide a hard, protective outer layer for the pangolins, while still offering enough flexibility to move or curl up into a ball for safety.
And, like anteaters, pangolins can climb. Tree-living or arboreal pangolins use their curved claws to grasp tree trunks, staying out of reach of predators when their own prey is unlikely to be out.
Scientific Name: Tachyglossidae (family)
Summary: Echidnas are known as “spiny anteaters” despite having a beak instead of a snout.
Most people have never heard of echidnas. However, at first glance, you might mistake this small, spiky animal for a weird anteater.
Instead, these weird mammals are not even closely related. In fact, they’re one of two surviving egg-laying mammals. The only other is the platypus. And, like the platypus, echidnas have a beak and not a snout.
Still, that long beak can look a lot like an anteater’s snout. And, echidnas use them for similar purposes, poking their way into ant and termite nests, before grabbing prey with a long and sticky tongue.
Unlike the anteater, echidnas have spines. Those spines are similar to those on a hedgehog, made up of thick hair covered with hard keratin.
However, like the anteater, echidnas use long, curved claws to dig their way into nests and to uncover prey.
All echidnas are native to New Guinea or Australia. This means that most of the world will only ever see them in zoos.
Scientific Name: Nasuni (Subtribe)
Summary: Coatis have a similar shape and a long nose, which they often use to eat ants and termites.
At first glance, coatis look like an odd cross between an anteater and a lemur. However, they’re related to neither.
Instead, these long-faced mammals are more closely related to olingos, a near-cousin of the raccoon.
Like anteaters, coatis also have long tails. However, it’s longer, fluffier, and much more similar to what you might expect from a cat.
Otherwise, coatis have similar feeding habits to many anteaters. Their diet consists of foraging and digging for small insects.
All coatis are native to the Americas. However, most are only found in Central and South America, with a few found in the Southwestern United States.
There are four species, with only the white-nosed coati found in the U.S.
Scientific Name: Myrmecobius fasciatus (Species)
Summary: Numbats look and behave similarly to many anteaters, although the snout is much shorter.
Numbats are Australian mammals with many similarities to the anteater. For starters, they feed exclusively on termites. They’re also one of the only mammals of their type that’s exclusively active during the day.
In addition, Numbats are the only member of its family, making it one of the smallest groups of mammals.
Numbats are also unique in that they live almost exclusively off of termites. That’s so true that they aren’t capable of retaining water if they drink it separately.
Unfortunately, numbats are endangered. Today, there are estimated to be about 1,000 of these animals left in the world.
At the same time, conservation efforts are underway, and populations are rising.
Scientific Name: Chlamyphoridae / Dasypodidae (Families)
Summary: The legs and body shape are the same, although the snout is shorter.
Armadillos are the beloved, armored insectivores of South America, Central America, and the southern United States. They also share many similarities with anteaters, including that they primarily eat only insects.
At the same time, there are many differences. For example, the snout is much shorter. Armadillos also have a touch exterior armor made of keratin and skin.
Anteaters are mostly hairy. So, you wouldn’t mistake even a screaming hairy armadillo for an anteater.
Still, there are a lot of similarities. Both have long curved claws, both eat a similar diet, and both look similar, especially from a distance.
6. Elephant Shrew
Scientific Name: Macroscelidea (Order)
Summary: Elephant Shrews share a long snout and tongue, which they use to snare their insect prey.
Elephant shrews are a diverse range of shrews native to South Africa.
All 20 species share a long, thin snout which they use to dig for small insects. And, like the anteater, they then grab those insects with a long, sticky tongue.
Elephant shrews are normally quite small. Most are 3-12 inches in length and under one pound. The exception is the giant sengi, an elephant shrew that can exceed 1.2 lbs.
Like numbats, elephant shrews get most of their water from their prey. This allows them to more easily survive extreme environments, like the Namib Desert.
However, these shrews are very adaptable and are found in almost every type of environment.
Scientific Name: Solenodontidae (Family)
Summary: Solenodons have a long snout which they use to insert into insect holes to find prey.
Most people have never heard of solenodons. These small mammals are native to Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.
They also stand out in a lot of ways, and not just because they bear a passing resemblance to anteaters.
However, they do look a lot like anteaters. Both species have long, shaggy coats.
They also feature a prominent and long nose, which they use to burrow, dig, and find insects to eat. That snout is also flexible.
One species even has a separate joint for the snout, allowing them to work it into even more places to find food.
However, the resemblance to anteaters stops there. Solenodons have long, rat-like tails. They also climb and might be mistaken for rodents.
Most are also small, with an average length of about a foot and weight under 2.5 pounds.
Solenodons are also one of the few venomous mammals.
Scientific Classification: Orycteropus afer (Species)
Summary: These insectivore mammals look like short-haired anteaters with pig snouts.
Aardvarks, which translates to “earth pigs”, could be described as looking like a cross between a pig and an anteater. They’re also the only species in their order, although they have 17 subspecies.
Aardvarks are native to the African continent and are spread over much of it. They also primarily live on ants and termites.
Here, their long snout comes in handy. However, unlike the anteater, the aardvark uses its pig-like snout to dig. Then, it uses a long, sticky tongue to catch its prey.
Otherwise, there’s not much that might make you confuse an anteater for an aardvark. However, they do have a similar build and body shape, although one is covered with long hair and one isn’t.
There are 8 different animals with at least a passing resemblance to anteaters. Most of them also share the same eating habits. And, most dig and eat food in the same ways. Yet, none of them are even closely related.