Longest tongue for a land mammal
Giant anteater, Myrmecophaga tridactyla
61 centimetre(s)
Not Applicable ()

The giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) of Latin America can extend its tongue at least 45 centimetres (1 foot 5 inches) outside its mouth, and there are reports of it reaching as long as 61 centimetres (2 feet). Covered in sticky saliva and small backward-facing barbs (papillae), the worm-like appendage is used to catch huge numbers of ants and termites from their nests. A giant anteater can consume as many as 30,000 insects in a day.

The visible tongue is estimated to represent only about one-third of the total tongue length at rest. That means the total length of the organ could be as much as 135 centimetres (4 feet 5 inches) or even 183 centimetres (6 feet) based on the upper 61-cm limit.

For context, the average total length of a giant anteater, including its large bushy tail, is 1.2–2 metres (3 feet 11 inches–6 feet 6 inches).

A long tongue is a common trait among ant-eating animals. For instance, the giant pangolin (Smutsia gigantea of Africa has also evolved this feature to catch its often-buried insect prey. Its tongue has been measured at 30 centimetres (11.8 inches) outside its mouth, with an estimated total length of 70 centimetres (2 feet 3 inches).

Another land mammal with an extremely long tongue is the giraffe (Giraffa); its prehensile tongue has been measured at around 40–50 centimetres (1 foot 3 inches–1 foot 7 inches).

The true anteaters are taxonomically named after this superlative organ, with the four extant species belonging to the suborder Vermilingua (“worm tongue”).