An anteater is, naturally, an animal which eats ants. It is not to be confused with the much more dangerous aunteater, though the latter large and scaly creature is only a danger to certain women -- those who have a sibling with at least one child, or are married to somebody situated with a similar relation. The anteater, by contrast, is a mammal best known by its lengthy proboscis and its all-insect diet. Some of those insects may be aunts as well -- ant society after all typically revolves around a single egg-laying queen, who may have sisters who were sent off to form their own colonies -- but since only one in ten-thousand ants is likely to be a female, the anteater could not possibly survive on aunt ants alone.

You might think that the most famous ever anteater was the blue fellow featured in certain Pink Panther cartoons; but in fact that fellow was an aardvark. Completely unrelated. This is a prime example of convergent evolution. The aardvark, it might be noted, is so named because in Dutch-descended Afrikaans, 'aard' means Earth and 'vark' means pig; the anteater is much more sensibly named using plain English words. Other insectivores such as the pangolin and echidna seem to be named by pulling syllables out of a hat. But the anteater is more closely related to the equally-Englishly named sloth -- and probably wonders why this cousin is so listless and unmotivated, what with all those tasty anthills abounding.

While some eaters of ants who are not anteaters are indeed scaly, the true anteater is not so, for it is furry. It wears a thick fur coat even in the hottest summers. One especially fashionable species is even called the silky anteater. Another species, the giant anteater, is disappointingly only about six feet long; although this is about twice as long as average anteaters of other species, sadly it does not tower over the trees, nor does it devour giant ants.

Some people keep anteaters as pets, which is a wonderful idea if you have an ant infestation and don't mind the fact that they can't really be house trained and make the most potent smelling pee ever. But if you do have an anteater as a pet, you can dress it in a shirt or in a jacket, take it for a lovely walk, and later relax with a nice glass of wine.