Mother Nature often works in mysterious ways, but the recent birth of a baby anteater has the staff at a Greenwich conservation center stumped.
The mystery begins in August, when Armani, a female giant anteater at the LEO Zoological Conservation Center in Greenwich, gave birth to baby Alice. It was a joyous occasion for all involved, except perhaps for Alf, baby Alice’s father. Male anteaters are known to commit infanticide, so Alf had to go. He remained at the center, but was kept away from mom and baby for several months.
Fast forward to one morning in April. A tender went into Armani’s enclosure and received quite a shock.
Armani, sometime during the previous night, had given birth to another baby.
The sudden appearance of little Archie was a surprise, to say the least. The gestation period for anteaters is six months. Armani and Alf had not been back together long enough to do what they needed to do to put the cycle of life into gear a second time.
The staff at the conservation center immediately got to wondering. Either this was a case of immaculate anteater conception, or Alf had somehow gotten the keys to Armani’s pen one night in October.
Marcella Leone, founder and director of the conservation center, has another idea. She thinks it might have been a case of delayed implantation, when fertilized eggs remain dormant in the uterus for a period of time.
The phenomenon has been observed in sloths and armadillos, which belong in the same group of mammals as anteaters. The difference is, those animals are able to delay one pregnancy, but some experts say they’ve never seen a second embryo implant after a mammal has just given birth.