Giant Anteater

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The tube-like rostrum and small mouth opening restrict the tongue to protrusion-retraction movements. During feeding, the tongue moves in and out around 160 times per minute (nearly three times per second). According to biologist Virginia Naples, these movements are powered by the unique musculature of the giant anteater's long, large, and flexible hyoid apparatus. Conversely, biologist Karen Reiss states that the anteater's tongue has no attachments to the hyoid and this is what allows it to flick its tongue at such speeds. The animal relies on the orientation of its head for aim. When fully extended, the tongue can reach 45 cm (18 in), longer than the length of the skull. The buccinators allow it to slide back in without losing attached food and tighten the mouth to prevent food from escaping as it extends. When retracted, the tongue is held in the oropharynx by the secondary palate, preventing it from blocking respiration. This retraction is aided by the long sternoglossus muscle, which is formed by the fusion of the sternohyoid and the hyoglossus, and does not attach to the hyoid. Thus, the tongue is directly anchored to the sternum.