Armadillos are queer-looking creatures that are not very common to all of us. They are mammals and their uniqueness lies in the shells they wear. Armadillo is a Spanish word that means “small armored one”.
Fact 1 Description
Armadillos fall in the sloths and anteaters’ category but they have a shovel-shaped pointed snout and tiny eyes. They have a covering of bony plates known as scutes on the back, tail, legs and head that cover most of the body parts of these creatures. Although they appear to be hairless and bald, they have hairs on the belly and sides of the body that are stiff and wiry. These hairs are called curb feelers for the armadillos use these hairs to feel their way at night. They have long claws with which they dig burrows in the earth and hunt insects.
Fact 2 Variety And Size
There are nearly twenty varieties of armadillos that still exist especially on the continent of America. There are three-banded, seven-banded, nine-banded and eleven-banded armadillos. They vary in color and size. Some are 6 inches while others may be 5-feet long from the tip of the nose to the tail. The pink-fairy salmon-colored armadillos are smaller in size and are about 10cm long as compared to the giant ones that are dark brown in color. You will find grey, red, black and yellowish armadillos also. The length of the nine-banded armadillos is 2.5 feet and weighs about 12 pounds.
Fact 3 Habitat
Armadillos prefer to live in the wetlands, savanna and prairie regions and so they are found mostly in the Southern United States and Mexico and also South and Central America. They mammals do not have fat stores and their metabolic rate is very low and so they cannot bear the cold. It is for this reason they live in warm habitats and temperate areas that include rainforests, semi-desert areas and grasslands. They sleep for about 16 hours a day in the burrows under the ground and in the evenings and early mornings wake up to search for food.
Fact 4 Food Habits
Armadillos are timid creatures and their diet consists mainly of insects. Basically they are insectivores but also have frogs, spiders and snakes according to the areas where they live. To find food, they mostly use their sense of smell and with the help of claws they dig into the ground to pull out insects, ants and termites with their long sticky tongues. They also feed on wasps, scorpions, spiders, yellow jackets, white grubs and snails and sometimes reptiles, mammals and bird eggs.
Fact 5 Babies Of Armadillos
Baby armadillos are born three to four months after gestation period. For the next few months after birth they stay in the burrows and feed on mother’s milk. Gradually they start foraging with their mothers and then start living separately when they are about six to twelve months old. Approximately 4 young ones are born at a time and it has been estimated that a female armadillo can give birth to 56 young ones within her life span.
Fact 6 Protection Against Enemies
All creatures have their own ways of protecting themselves from enemies and predators. Armadillos use their hard casing as their shield when they sense danger. They curl up entirely and encase themselves in the shell that looks like a hard ball. The fact is that all armadillos cannot roll up into balls. Only the three-banded armadillos can do so. The others burrow deep inside the ground when they sense danger. According to the number of bands on their armor they get their names as seven-banded or nine-banded etc.
Armadillos have now become an endangered species due to loss of habitat and also overhunting.