December 5, 2013

song for an unusual creature

My friend Michael Hearst has been writing about unusual creatures for quite some time now, and I've delighted in his inclusion of giant anteaters among his literary and musical creations. Last year he published an Unusual Creatures book with entries on critters from the blobfish to the elephant shrew to everyone's favorite fuzzy long-nosed mammal. Michael is also an accomplished musician who has interpreted the musical essence of some of these animals by writing about them in song!

As you might imagine, when I first learned Michael was thinking up ideas for his unusual creatures songs I chatted with him about giant anteaters and even tried to help him obtain some anteater sound recordings. More recently, Michael paid a visit to Anteater Central—a.k.a. the Nashville Zoo—to meet a couple of giant anteaters in person and listen to what they sound like for himself! He was inspired to write a new anteater tune, which you can download for free from the Unusual Creatures website. Here's a great little clip from PBS Digital on how it all went down! •>~

September 6, 2013

toon time

I've got a few exciting anteater posts in the works, and I hope to get them up in the next month or so, but I couldn't wait to share with you this excellent cartoon by David Borchart from this week's New Yorker magazine. A new take on the term, "ant trap," for sure! Head on over to The New Yorker to see the full line of cartoons from the September 9th issue. •>~

May 17, 2013

the case of the mystery pup

A veritable anteater mystery is unfolding in Greenwich, Connecticut. A story in today's Greenwich Time recounts the birth of a new giant anteater who was completely unexpected by the host zoo's caretakers. Here's the scoop: The new pup's mother, Armani, gave birth to a young female pup last August. Since male giant anteaters are known to sometimes kill their own offspring, the pup's father, Alf, was immediately separated from Armani and her baby. Months later, Armani and Alf were reunited. But last month, zookeepers at the LEO Zoological Conservation Center were surprised one morning to find Armani with yet another newborn pup, this time a male, in the anteater enclosure.

Giant anteaters don't "show" their pregnancy very much, and the timing was such that the birth seemed to defy logic: Armani had not, to anyone's knowledge, been anywhere near Alf, her male companion, in October, when the new baby must have been conceived. (The gestational period for giant anteaters is six months.)

The news media has been having a field day with the idea that this might have been an "immaculate conception." Of course, there must be some other explanation, but what could it be?

Marcella Leone, founder and director of the LEO Conservation Center, has suggested it might have been a rare case of delayed implantation, a situation in which a fertilized egg doesn't immediately begin normal division and implantation in a mother's uterus. If this were the case, Alf would have fertilized two of Armani's eggs at the same time, with one developing during the normal timeline to produce the female pup last August, and the other taking a while to develop into the newer male pup.

Anteater experts have so far reacted to this hypothesis with some skepticism.

"I am extremely dubious about the delayed implantation theory, especially with a birth in the middle of the timeline," says Marie Magnuson, an anteater keeper at the National Zoo in Washington DC. Magnuson has overseen the birth of three giant anteaters.

I've got to think it's also possible that someone at the conservation center accidentally brought the pair together before they were supposed to, and simply never said anything about it. Males and females don't take long to mate, so it could have happened pretty quickly.

We may never know the truth behind this giant anteater mystery. But how wonderful that there are now two pups thriving in southwestern Connecticut! Here's wishing them both long, healthy lives. •>~

Photo of mating anteaters courtesy of Tracey Barnes

February 18, 2013

getting a check-up

How do you examine a giant anteater? Carefully. As noted previously on The Online Anteater, these animals are docile creatures, but they must be handled with utmost caution due to their imposing, razor-sharp claws. Now, the Zoological Society of London has published a revealing blog post detailing the process by which veterinarians go about the delicate task of checking an anteater's vitals while keeping everyone in the room safe. In particular, they describe a check-up for aging London Zoo resident Bonito, including bloodwork, an x-ray, and an abdominal ultrasound. I'd never seen such a setup before, but it makes a lot of sense that they would wrap Bonito's paws so tightly before subjecting him to the exam! Thanks to the ZSL for the insight into this aspect of giant anteater care. •>~

November 9, 2012

October 31, 2012

an anteater halloween

You may remember us raving last year about a sublime giant anteater costume. Well, here are two more excellent Halloween anteaters, one by Brett Manning on Flickr and the other by noted baby photographer Tom Arma. Have a safe and happy Halloween, everyone! •>~