The bizarre-looking 4 legged creatures with an armored covering, surmising a cross between a pangolin and a rabbit (Yeah, quite an absurd combination) that’s Armadillos for you.
Armadillo is actually a Spanish word meaning “little armored one” and refers to the bony plates that cover the back, head, legs, and tail of most of these odd-looking creatures.
Their alien look and behavior have made a rather big cloud of myths and stories about them.
Let’s have a dive into the hearsays about Armadillos and have a fact check to see if they really hold any ground.
1. Are there many kinds of Armadillos?
Armadillos are species native to the North and South American continent. There are 20 species of Armadillos found in the whole of American continent. Out of the 20, only the nine-branded Armadillos are found to exist outside the South American tropics.
Let’s have a look at the different species of Armadillos
Among the 20 species only the long-nosed armadillos which are found in the United States. The Long-Nosed Armadillos are found to have armor bands vary between 7 to 11. The peculiarity of these species is their long snout and absence of hair.
As the name suggests they are truly massive. Giant Armadillos can reach the length of about 39 inches and weigh in excess of 132 pounds They are commonly found in the southeastern United States to Peru and Uruguay, and on the Caribbean islands of Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago.
Three species of Armadillos are found in the family of Hairy Armadillos. They are also called the screaming Armadillo because of the high pitched sound it produces when in danger. These species have long hair that covers their belly and undersides and sticks out through their shell. The long hairs are used by the Armadillos similar to how a cat uses its whiskers.
Three Banded Armadillo
2 species out of the 20 are the members of the Three Banded Armadillo family. In fact, they are the only Armadillos that can roll their body into the shape of a tight ball. These species are found in the grassy lands in Brazil and they mostly feed on larvae of beetles.
One thing that differentiates the 2 species of the three-banded Armadillo family from the rest species is that they DON’T dig burrows. Rather they use burrows that are abandoned by anteaters.
Pink Fairy Armadillo
They are the smallest of the 20 species of Armadillos and do not grow longer than 5 inches. As the name suggests they are pink in color. The Pink Fairy Armadillos are fast diggers and are known for the speed in which they dig out burrows. They mostly feed on worms, snails, and plant matter.
2. What are bands on an Armadillo?
Armadillos have a protective shell made out of bones surrounding their body. This protective shell they have is called the carapace and is made out of transverse bands covered with thick skin cells (Keratinous skin.
Among the 20 species of Armadillos only the 3 banded, 6 banded, and 9 banded Armadillos are named after the number of movable bands they possess.
For e.g. The 3 banded Armadillo has 3 movable bands, the 6-banded Armadillos have 6 movable bands and the 9-banded Armadillos have 9 movable bands.
3. 9-banded Armadillo – The celebrity!
In the year 1995, the 9-banded Armadillo was named the official state small mammal of Texas. This same species is also nicknamed the “hillbilly speed bump”. It is very common in Texas to run over a 9-banded Armadillo while driving hence the name “hillbilly speed bump”.
When frightened the 9-banded Armadillos jump 3-4 feet vertically into the air. This is in fact its self-defense mechanism aimed at scaring away potential predators.
4. Tactical Bulletproof gear using Armadillo Shell – Truth or Myth?
There has been a lot of reports on people trying to shoot an Armadillo and the bullet ricocheting from their carapace. Though these reports are true Armadillos are NOT bulletproof. You can probably say they are bullet-resistant and NOT bulletproof.
The thick carapace they have is formed out of ossified external plates which are in turn covered by a thick layer of Keratinized skin. This hardshell can actually survive shots fired from a low caliber weapon whose bullet has less penetration power and NOT from a bullet that has penetration power.
When fired at an angle even a low caliber bullet can penetrate its shell!
That proves that the claim of a tactical proof gear from the shell of an Armadillo is a HOAX.
5. Do I need to be scared of an Armadillo?
That’s a pretty obvious question to ask about a spooky-looking creature. Well, Armadillos are not generally dangerous or aggressive but they are still wild animals. They can harm you with their strong claws If not properly handled. An average Armadillo will run away of it is threatened or they will withdraw their whole body into their carapace and seek protection.
There is one thing you need to be careful about Armadillos, they are known to be the primary carriers of the bacteria that causes leprosy. So yeah they are very DANGEROUS!
It has been found out that 1 in 6 Armadillos in Texas and Louisiana is carriers of the Leprosy causing bacteria. The bacteria is spread to humans by direct contact with the Armadillos, eating their flesh or by contaminates the soil.
So yes, Armadillos are DANGEROUS!
6. Are Armadillos Deaf and Blind?
Armadillos have very poor vision and ability to hear. You can call them nearly Deaf and Blind and NOT completely deaf and blind. But make no mistake they have an impeccable ability to sense smells.
Armadillos are found to smell things that are 20cms buried underground.
Much like a cat that uses its whiskers to identify things Armadillos have fur/hair on their belly that helps it to feel what’s there.
So No, Armadillos are NOT deaf and blind!
7. What do Armadillos eat?
Armadillos are omnivorous mammals, meaning they eat both plants and small animals. Though they are omnivorous around 85% of their diet comprises of insects and larvae. They are commonly seen eating invertebrates and insects such as beetles, fire ants, termites, grubs and worms.
An adult Armadillo can consume thousands of insects in a day! They have a long sticky tongue like anoles and frogs that helps them catch insects and flies that are swift.
They are also found eating earthworms, scorpions, spiders and are sometimes found scavenging on dead animals too!
8. Are Armadillos edible?
There are people in and around Central and South America who consume Armadillo meat as a part of an average meal. It is also said that Armadillo meat is a traditional ingredient in Oaxaca, Mexico.
There are some parts in The US and Mexico where Armadillo meat is used as a substitute for chicken or pork meat.
It is NOT SAFE to consume Armadillo meat at 1 out of every 3 Armadillos are said to be carriers of the bacteria that causes Leprosy (Mycobacterium leprae).
So, you need to stay AWAY from Armadillo meat as they are NOT edible.
9. Armadillos as test subjects in leprosy research
Armadillos have a very sluggish metabolism causing it to have lower body temperatures.
This makes the armadillos highly susceptible to Mycobacterium leprae (Bacteria causing leprosy). These bacteria need a cool skin for it to easily propagate and Armadillos are creatures with low body temperature.
It is for this reason Armadillos are greatly used as test subjects in leprosy research.
10. Where do Armadillos live?
Armadillos usually prefer warm, moist climates and are most commonly seen in grassland and forest areas. Because they need to dig for their food and shelter they are attracted to places with loose and porous soil (For the ease of digging).
They that dig burrows and live inside them. Armadillos are not social animals rather they are solitary creatures that sleep for 14-18hrs a day. The only time they come out of the burrow is when they are awake and hungry.
They normally come out in the mornings and evenings to forage for food.
Apart from being good diggers, they are also excellent climbers. In places where they are not able to dig a way in/out Armadillos are seen climbing over fences.
Armadillos are not social animals. They are solitary creatures that love to spend on an average 14hrs a day sleeping inside the burrows. Usually, the only time Armadillos come together is when they need to mate or to keep warm during cold weathers.
Though Armadillos are NOT social, adult Armadillos are found to set up small home ranges that are in close proximity or overlapping with other Armadillos. Even if their home ranges overlap they are still seen to have low levels of interactions with one another.
Quite a boring life huh!?
12. The general behavior of an Armadillo!
In the Southern region of the US where they are commonly seen Armadillos are nocturnal round the year. Armadillos prefer to keep themselves cool inside their deep burrows during the day and come out foraging at night.
The 9 banded Armadillos commonly seen in North America are an exception to this. Armadillos have relatively lower body temperature so in the North American regions they tend to change their habits during winter.
During winter the 9 banded Armadillos come out during the day to take advantage of the warm sun to regulate their body temperature.
13. How do Armadillos mate?
Though Armadillos are solitary animals, their behavior is seen to have a drastic change during breeding seasons. Armadillos are known for their strong olfactory systems so during the breeding season they make use of their powerful noses to make sure that they are around a perfect mate.
A commonly seen behavior among male Armadillos is to find a pair whose burrow rage overlaps the most his range. During mating, the male remains in close proximity to the female (Not close than a few meters) all times. It doesn’t really matter much to the males even if a female is not showing any interest he’ll still be in close proximity to her.
Male Armadillos are found to be very protective of their mate if another male comes close to his pair he rushes off to meet him and chase him away. Sometimes the chase is found to get vicious where the two males end up in a battle to prove dominance.
In short mating behavior of an Armadillo resembles a courtship ritual!
14. Delayed implantation in female Armadillos – Demystified
The breeding season of the Armadillos is in the month of June. Unlike other mammals, female Armadillos have a unique ability to delay their pregnancy until November when the conditions are favorable.
This is done to ensure that the pup is born into a favorable environment!
15. Do Armadillos give birth or lay eggs?
Armadillos are mammals that give birth to their offsprings. There are only 5 mammals that lay eggs rather give birth to their offsprings. The spiny anteaters (Echidnas) the closest evolutionary cousin of the Armadillos is one among the 5 egg-laying mammals.
These egg-laying mammals known as “monotremes” are the eccentric relatives of the rest of the mammals which bear their young.
Looking at the evolutionary history these egg-laying mammals were the dominant species in Australia at one point in time. The monotremes were almost swept aside by their marsupial pouch bearing cousins such as Kangaroos.
16. Do Armadillos give birth to identical quadruples?
Armadillos do give birth to identical quadruples but NOT always. The offspring of an Armadillo is called pup. Armadillos occasionally bear litters of 3 or 5 pups but that isn’t very common. But the fascinating fact is that irrespective of the number of pups they will all be identical.
The entire process of fertilization of an egg inside the female Armadillo has been a matter of great interest for biologists and scientists. All the pups in a litter are formed from the same egg, share a common placenta inside the mother’s womb and most importantly are of the same sex.
An important thing to note here is that NOT all Armadillos shows Polyembryony. Only the 9 banded and 7 banded Armadillos exhibit Polyembryony. While the others such as the 6 banded Armadillos or the giant give birth to only one pup!
Armadillo pups become sexually mature in 1 year!
At the time of birth Armadillo pups do not have their armor over them. It is only after a few weeks the carapace is developed is covered by a keratinous skin.
17. Why do Armadillos give birth to identical quadruples?
This is something that has puzzled the scientific community for ages. The reason for this is still a mystery for most. There are two schools of thoughts on why this is happening
- To reduce the risk of inbreeding among the Armadillos when they mature.
- It may be an evolutionary quirk that happened millions of years ago and got locked into the genetics of female Armadillos.
18. Do Armadillos have a low body temperature?
Armadillos are creatures that have a low body temperature in the range of 33-36 degrees Celsius (91o-97o F) and with slow metabolic rates. In most cases, the metabolic rate of Armadillos is seen to less than half of all similarly sized mammals.
The reason for a lowered metabolic rate lies in the fact that Armadillos do not get much more than minimum energy from the food they eat. By sleeping for 14-16 hours a day, they are in fact saving energy.
19. Do Armadillos dig up and eat dead bodies?
NO, they don’t dig the dead bodies out of the grave to have a snack.
The reason for this unfortunate rumor is the fact that Armadillos have a tendency to dig places where the dirt is soft. The only reason they dig on graves is to hunt down the small insects that are found in loose dirt.
In some places, Armadillos are called grave diggers for this reason.
20. What eats an Armadillo and how does it defend?
Armadillo is a tasty snack for many predators. Most importantly coyotes are Armadillos’ major threat. Other natural enemies of an Armadillo include bears, wolves, bobcats, raccoons, and larger hawks.
Apart from animals in some parts of Mexico, Central America and South America Armadillo meat is used as a major substitute to Pork and Chicken meat.
It’s not easy being an Armadillo!
So how do they defend themselves?
The main defense mechanism of an Armadillo is to run into its burrows or straight into a thorny bush, where it can use its armor as protection from the thorny bushes. Armadillos are good runners. They can run a good distance in a shorter time with their short legs.
21. Are Armadillos good swimmers?
YES, they are. Armadillos has the ability to hold the breath for as long as 6 minutes. The armor of an Armadillo causes it to weigh more which means they can walk along the bottom of any water body with ease.
Don’t be deceived by their look. Armadillos are descent swimmers when there is a need to swim. When they swim they swallow air and inflates its stomach giving it a temporary buoyancy for a long time.
22. How to identify the damage caused by an Armadillo?
Armadillos are known for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. They are commonly held responsible for the damage rodents do because Armadillos try and get a snack from whatever has been left over by the Rodents.
Signs of damage caused by Armadillos include:
- Holes through lawn (or other areas with loose and porous sand) that are about 3 to 5 inches wide and 1 to 3 inches deep.
- Plants and seedlings left uprooted
- Look closely for burrow entrances that are 7 to 10 inches In width near to building structures, sidewalks, low lying shrubs, etc.
- Underground pipes or wires damaged.
- Most importantly look for Armadillo tracks. They have 4 toes in front with a center toe that is elongated and 5 toes in the back with 3 elongated center toes.
23. How to get a troublesome Armadillo out of your property?
Having Armadillos on your backyard can be quite annoying though, they aren’t dangerous. Getting them out your property is a challenging task.
The best thing to do would be to drop mothballs into Armadillo burrows. Armadillos are known for their powerful nose and the strong smell of the mothballs is going to drive them crazy.
Be ready with a trap or a cage when they run straight out of their burrow.
Catch them and make sure to drop them far off from your property so that they don’t find their way back. Once they are out of their burrow, put some more mothballs into the burrow, and seal the entrance to the burrow.
24. Can human urine be used as Armadillo repellent?
It’s a common belief that human urine is an Armadillo repellent but it is NOT. Spraying the urine of a Bobcat or a Coyote is found to be effective in keeping the Armadillos away because Armadillos are a tasty snack for Bobcat and Coyotes.
The effective way to get an Armadillo out of your property would be to trap them and releasing them into the wild.
25. Is there a humanly way to kill an Armadillo?
Did you know that Armadillos are on the verge of being in the list of endangered species? Their population has been found to slimming down in the last decade due to its loss of natural habitat and extensive hunting for their meat and shell.
Well, that pretty much gives you an answer about killing them!
26. How do Armadillos grow up?
Similar to the offsprings of other species, Armadillo pups are helpless during birth. Once they are ready they come out of the burrows and start foraging for food.
Depending upon the species the age at which this happens may vary. In the case of 9 banded Armadillos, their pups start to venture out of the burrow with their mom 2 to 3 weeks after birth. While in the case of southern three-banded (Tolypeutes matatus) armadillos the pups remain deaf and blind for the first 3 to 4 weeks after their birth.
The pups will still be fed by their mother until 4 to 5 months of age. They still stay with their mother for a couple of months more before going on their own.