Since the pioneering description made in 1758 by Swedish naturalist and father of taxonomy Carl Nilsson Linnaeus (1707-1778), there was officially one single silky anteater species. This short-snouted, pigmy-sized anteater would then be known for its scientific name, Cyclopes didactyla, after its inclusion in the 10th edition of Systema Naturae, Linnaeus' magnum opus. It is found in tropical forests in South and Central America, as well as in the few remaining fragments of Atlantic rainforest in Northeast Brazil.
Six populations of C. didactylus scattered through this territory were discovered in the 19th and early 20th centuries. However, because all the collected specimens appeared to be identical, it was thought that the subtle morphological differences could only justify the creation of subspecies of C. didactylus, therefore, the only species in the family Cyclopedidae.
But now, a Brazilian group of taxonomists, zoologists and geneticists proposes that silky anteaters comprise at least seven distinct species, after concluding a study of the biology and ecology of the new species, during which they sequenced mitochondrial and nuclear DNA from 287 specimens. They have published their results in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.