Anteaters and aardvarks are similar looking animals that are actually different species. An anteater is a mammal of the suborder Vermilingua. It is a solitary animal and is also known as the anthill bear. Giant Anteaters are sometimes mistaken for bears because of their claws and bushy fur.

Aardvark is a mammal found in Africa. Aardvarks sleep during the day, and are active at night. They are nocturnal animals. If the nights are cold, sometimes they will come out in the daylight to lie in the sun and get warm. The aardvark has a long, thin, protruding tongue and elaborate structures supporting a keen sense of smell. Aardvarks are insectivores; they have great ant and termites identification skills. They use their keen sense of smell to seek out their subterranean food source.

Comparison chart

Aardvark versus Anteater comparison chart
Weight 40-65 kg 22-40 kg
Lifespan In captivity, up to 25 years, as wild animal is unknown. Average lifespan in captivity: 25 years, in wilderness 13-15 years.
Family Orycteropodidae Cyclopedidae, Mrymecophagidae
Habitat Lives below the ground in burrows Lives on the ground
Teeth Aardvarks have cylindrical shaped teeth that continue to grow through its lifetime Anteaters are toothless
Nature Nocturnal animals Diurnal
Superorder Afrotheria Xenarthra
Order Tibulidentata Pilosa
Class Mammalian Mammalian
Kingdom Animalia Animalia
Phylum Chordata Chordata
About An Aardvark is a nocturnal, long-snouted, burrowing South African mammal, with long ears. Anteater is a mammal of the sub order vermilingua, commonly known for eating ants and termite.
Length 1-1.3 m long 1-1.3 m long
Geographical Distribution Aardvarks live in African savannas, open grasslands, woodlands, and scrub. They range from southern Egypt to the Cape of Good Hope in the far south of Africa. The Anteater is extensively distributed in South and Central America, frequenting low swampy savannas, along the banks of rivers, and the depths of the humid forests, but is nowhere abundant.

Comparison of Physiology and Physical Appearance

Giant Anteater
Giant Anteater

The species of Anteater is further divided into 3 groups – giant anteater, tamandua and silky anteater. Of these Giant anteater is the most common one. It measures 4 feet (1.2 m) in length, excluding the tail, and 2 feet (60 cm) in height at the shoulder. It has a long, thin head and a large, bushy tail. It has 5 toes and 3 long, sharp claws. Its prevailing color is gray, with a broad black band. It is generally acknowledged that giant Anteaters have a poor sense of sight but a keen sense of smell. In fact, their sense of smell is regarded to be some 40 times stronger than that of humans.

An aardvark
An aardvark

The Aardvark is vaguely pig-like. Its body is stout with an arched back and is sparsely covered with coarse hairs. The limbs are of moderate length. The front feet have lost the pollex (or 'thumb'), resulting in four toes but the rear feet have all five toes. The ears are disproportionately long, and the tail is very thick at the base and gradually tapers. The greatly elongated head is set on a short, thick neck, and the end of the snout bears a disc, which houses the nostrils.

The mouth is small and tubular, typical of species that feed on termites. The teeth grow and are replaced during the aardvark's whole lifetime! A fully grown aardvark is about 5-6 ft in length including the tail which alone is about 2 ft. The aardvark is pale yellowish gray in color,and often stained reddish-brown by soil. The aardvark's coat is thin and the animal's primary protection is its tough skin.

Reproductive differences

Anteaters and aardvarks are both mammals and produce one offspring per birth. During much of its first year of life, a young Anteater rides on its mother's back. The anteater baby is born without hair and stays inside the burrow for at least two weeks. It drinks the mother's milk for about four months and then begins to eat insects. At six months of age it is able to dig its own burrows, but it will often remain with the mother until the next mating season, and is sexually capable by the season after that. Aardvarks only pair during the breeding season and have a gestation period of 7 months.

Differences in diet

Both animals eat mostly ants and termites. Anteaters obtain their diet by opening ant/termite nests with its powerful sharp front claws. The anteater has no teeth. It draws its prey into its mouth by means of its long, flexible, rapidly moving tongue covered with sticky saliva. Their tongue can be flicked up to 150-160 or more a minute. A full-grown giant Anteater eats upwards of 30,000 ants and termites a day.

In addition to eating ants and termites (formicivore), the only fruit eaten by aardvarks is the aardvark cucumber. When a concentration of ants or termites is detected, the Aardvark digs into it with its powerful front legs, keeping its long ears upright to listen for predators, and takes up an astonishing number of insects with its long, sticky tongue, as many as 50,000 in one night. Its tongue then licks up the insects.


The Giant Anteater is the mascot of the University of California at Irvine.


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