Here are some interesting facts about an ancient animal. Armadillos are New World placental mammals with a leathery armour shell. The Chlamyphoridae and Dasypodidae are the only surviving families in the order Cingulata, part of the superorder Xenarthra, along with the anteaters and sloths. Translated from Spanish to mean ‘little armoured one’, armadillos are the only living mammal with such a shell!
Amazing Facts About the Armadillo
- There are 20 different species of armadillo, all of which live solely in Latin America with the exception of the Nine-banded armadillo which has expanded into the USA.
- The Nine-banded armadillo is the official state small mammal of Texas, nicknamed the ‘hillbilly speed bump’ as they are hit on the roads so often. During the 1920s depression, the Nine-banded armadillo was eaten, referred to as the ‘Hoover Hog’ as a result of President Hoovers failure to keep meat on the tables.
- Expanding northward, the Nine-banded armadillo is now a common sight in Missouri, USA.
- Armadillo is a Spanish word, translating to ‘little armoured one’, named by Spanish explorers to Latin America.
- Armadillos are covered in bony plates that create their ‘armour’. They are the only living mammal to wear such a shell. The plates cover their back, legs, head and tail, composed of small epidermal scales of horn-covered bone. The plates overlap each other for added protection.
- Many think of armadillos rolling themselves into a ball for protection but in fact there is only one species – the three-banded armadillo – which can encase itself in its shell, curling its head and feet inwards forming a hard ball. This tactic confused predators, even a dog cannot undo the armadillo’s ball.
- Due to their lack of fat stores and low metabolic rate, armadillos hate the cold. If there are times of unusually cold weather, a whole population can be wiped out!
- Armadillos have a low body temperature, between 33-36˚C (91-97˚F), a human’s body temperature is 37˚C (98.6˚F).
- Generally solitary creatures except during mating, they will sometimes group together in a burrow in cold conditions to keep warm.
- Armadillos are closely related to sloths and anteaters, sharing some similarities. For example, an armadillos tongue is long and sticky, like anteaters, designed to extract ants and termites from their tunnels.
- An armadillos diet is comprised of beetles, insects, ants, termites, plants and some fruit. If given the chance, they will eat small ground-nesting birds and their eggs.
- With very poor eyesight and hearing, armadillos rely on their strong sense of smell to hunt. They can smell things which are up to 20cm below the ground! They also have long straggly fur on their underside to allow them to feel what they are walking over, used similarly to a cat’s whiskers.
- Armadillos have between 1-15 babies. The Nine-banded armadillo always gives birth to 4 identical quadruplets. They are produced from a single egg which splits in four, meaning the babies will all be the same gender.
- Armadillos are able to delay implantation of the fertilised egg at times of stress; it is thought this can be delayed for as long as 2 years!
- Baby armadillos have soft leathery skin which hardens after a few weeks.
- Where armadillos live is dependent on soil type, they prefer sandy or loam soils which are loose and porous, making it easier to dig for food and make burrows.
- Armadillos have very strong legs with huge front claws which aid digging.
- Armadillos can swim well but, due to their heavy shell, they have to swallow air to inflate their stomach to give them buoyancy. They can also hold their breath for up to 6 minutes so will sometimes walk across the bottom of a river or lake.
- When armadillos feel threatened they tend to run away into their burrows or into thorny vegetation where their armour protects them and predators cannot follow. Some species will jump 3-4ft in the air when they are surprised.
Clancy's comment: Another amazing species.