Mammals That Eat Insects

ecapz(TipWriter)Starred Page By ecapz(TipWriter), 3rd Aug 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Pets>Other

There are some species of mammals that prefer to eat mostly insects in their diet. Most of them are on the verge of extinction. Let’s get to know them better.

The Insect-eating Mammals

More than 4,600 species divided into 21 orders comprise the class Mammalia – the dominant and probably the most diversified group of animals on Earth. Mammals are best characterized by the presence of mammary glands in the female of the species – which secretes milk to nourish their young.

Most mammals are herbivores—organisms that feed on green plants or on nuts, fruits, seeds, and other plant parts such as the squirrel and many other rodents; sea cows feed on aquatic vegetation. Tigers, lions, and sea lions are examples of carnivores – those that feed on the flesh of other animals. Omnivores are those that feed on both plants and animals. Human beings belong to this category. However, there are some species of mammals that may be regarded as obscure; their food preference does not fall under any of the three. Better known as insectivores, these mammals are known to feed mostly on insects. Examples of these insect-eating mammals are shrews, moles, many bats, armadillos, anteaters, pangolins, and aardvarks.


Found mostly in the United States and South and Central America, armadillos are armored mammals of the family Dasypodidae. They belong to order Edentata – a group of mammals with few or no teeth that includes the anteaters and sloths. They are notable for their defensive armor, which consists of small, circular bony plates, hardened with the skin. The unarmored undersurface is hairy. A particular defense mechanism of some species of armadillos is their ability to roll themselves into a ball so that the tender underparts of the body are completely protected from predators. Their tongue is covered with a sticky fluid similar to the substance secreted by the tongue of anteaters. Armadillos are timid animals, feeding mostly on insects, worms, and vegetable matter. Among the more common species are the six-banded armadillo or peludo (Euphractus sexcinctus); the three-banded armadillo, or apar (Tolypeutes t. cinctus); and the giant armadillo (Priodontes giganteus). Armadillos have become endangered primarily because of hunting and encroachment of habitat. Animal hunters and collectors prize them for their armor and palatable meat.


Anteaters are any of the three genera of mammals under order Edentata. They are mostly found in Central America. Most common species include the giant anteater and the pygmy anteater. The giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) is the largest, weighing 23 kilograms. The pygmy anteater (Cyclopes didatylus), on the other hand, is the smallest (about the size of a cat). Anteaters usually inhabit tropical forests, feeding mainly on ants, termites, and other small insects. An elongated skull with short ears, a tapered snout, and a tubular mouth with no teeth characterize them. A long tongue covered with a sticky salivary secretion helps them gather food. Their poor sight and hearing are compensated by their exceptional sense of smell. Because of their low reproductive rate, overhunting drove anteaters into the list of endangered species.


Also known as scaly anteater, pangolin is the common name for members of the only family (Manidae) of mammals under order Pholidota. It is native to Asia and Africa. Like armadillos, pangolins are best characterized by their armor-plated body. Their skin is covered by overlapping scales with sharp edges that serve as a protection against predators. When threatened, pangolins curl up tightly into a ball to hide their head and feet. Including their thick prehensile tails, pangolins range from three to five feet in length. They are toothless but have long, thin, sticky tongue with which they pick ants and termites. Some species, like the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla), are almost completely arboreal (tree-dwelling). Others, such as the giant pangolin (M. gigantean), are terrestrial and prefer open plains for habitat. Pangolins are hunted for their armor, making them yet another endangered species.


Ranging from three to five feet long and weigh from 100 to 154 pounds, aardvarks, or “earth pigs,” are native to Africa. Their elongated head, rabbit-like ears, and pig-like snout characterize them best. Aardvarks live in burrows and feed mainly on ants and termites, which they gather with the use of their long, sticky tongue. The only members of order Tubulidentata, aardvarks are shy, slow-moving animals with an acute sense of hearing. Unlike anteaters, which are toothless, aardvarks have cylindrical, rootless teeth that grow continually throughout their lifetime. Hunting of aardvarks for their flesh (as delicacy) and for their hide (as raw materials) has led to their endangerment since the females bear only one offspring a year.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
4th Aug 2012 (#)

Thanks for a beautifully written piece - siva

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author avatar Md Rezaul Karim
4th Sep 2012 (#)

Great animals, and nice photos too.

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