Courtship between males and females has not been well documented in the wild so it is not known exactly how and when giant anteaters of the opposite sex find each other and what rituals they go through during the courtship process. However, several observations of antagonistic interactions, generally between males, have taken place. This suggests giant anteaters defend specific territories to some extent. Much more investigation has to be done to fully understand the entire mating strategy.
Some scientists believe breeding between wild giant anteaters takes place in the southern hemisphere's autumn season (March to May), probably during a brief encounter. Others suggest breeding in the wild can take place throughout the year. In any event, when giant anteaters mate, the male (which is usually larger than the female) squats over the female, who is lying on her side.
Gestation lasts about 180 days (6 months). The female delivers in her bipedal position, propped up by her tail. Giant anteaters normally bear only one single young at a time and babies are born fully coated with fur and markings. Immediately after birth, newborns climb through their mothers' fur and the mom licks the baby clean. Suckling lasts about six months. Females have mammary glands - "breasts" - located lateral to the "armpits" on the chest or abdomen.
During much of its first year of life, a young anteater will ride on its mother's back. After several months, a youngster will start to take short trips away from mom. But when it is tired or scared it will hop back up to the safety of its mother. The youngster sticks around with its mom until it is nearly full-grown, about two years, or until the mother gets pregnant again. After that time, a giant anteater will leave its mother to pursue its own life. Anteaters reach sexual maturity in between 2.5 and 4 years.
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