Remember the ‘Holiday Armadillo’ in ‘Friends’? Funny and cute! Am I right? Though the real ones may not be very cuddly, there’s no denying that armadillos are still incredibly cute creatures!
Armadillos are barrel-shaped animals covered with natural armour. They come in a large range of sizes and are surprisingly talented mammals. To spike your interest in these intriguing creatures a bit more, we’ve prepared some interesting facts about armadillos…
Of the 20 varieties of armadillo, all but one live in Latin America. The familiar nine-banded armadillo is the only species that includes the United States in its range.
Most armadillos stick to areas closer to the equator because they like warmer temperates due to their lack of fat stores.
Armadillos are very picky about where they live based on what type of soil is found in the area. Usually, armadillos prefer sandy or loam soils that are loose and porous. This makes digging for food and creating burrows easier.
Armadillo is a Spanish word meaning ‘little armoured one’ and refers to the bony plates that cover the back, head, legs, and tail of most of these odd-looking creatures.
The three, six, and nine-banded armadillos are named for the number of movable bands in their armour.
Armadillos are the only living mammals that have protective armour.
The armadillo’s armour works well against most predators, but not against cars.
They are also known as the ‘Hillbilly Speed Bump’ for their tendency to get run over by vehicles.
Closely related to anteaters and sloths, armadillos generally have a pointy or shovel-shaped snout and small eyes.
They vary widely in size and color, from the 6-inch-long, salmon-colored pink fairy armadillo to the 5-foot-long, dark-brown giant armadillo. Others have black, red, grey, or yellowish coloring.
Contrary to popular belief, not all armadillos can encase themselves in their shells. Only the three-banded armadillo can, curling its head and back feet and contorting its shell into a hard ball that confounds would-be predators.
The nine-banded armadillo is the only mammal known to routinely have identical quadruplets.
In the looks department, the nine-banded armadillo appears naked, while the pink fairy armadillo is mostly furry and has a little shell. It looks like a mole wearing a fancy, armoured headdress and cape!
Armadillos live in temperate and warm habitats, including rainforests, grasslands, and semi-deserts. Cold is their enemy and spates of intemperate weather can wipe out whole populations.
Armadillos have little body fat and thin shells, so they cannot maintain their internal temperature as most mammals do.
They have very poor eyesight and utilize their keen sense of smell to hunt. Strong legs and huge front claws are used for digging, and long, sticky tongues for extracting ants and termites from their tunnels.
These efficient diggers emerge from their burrows primarily at night.
Armadillos eat bugs, small vertebrates, plants, and some fruit, as well as the occasional carrion meal.
Most species dig burrows and sleep prolifically, up to 16 hours per day, foraging in the early morning and evening for beetles, ants, termites, and other insects.
Giant armadillos sleep about 18 hours a day.
Armadillos are not social creatures and spend most of their time sleeping.
Usually, the only time armadillos get together is to mate or to keep warm. During cold times, a group of armadillos may hunker down in a burrow together to share body heat.
Sometimes, a seven-banded armadillo will share its burrow with others of the same gender, though.
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.
After a gestation period of two to five months, the female will give birth to one to 12 young in a birthing burrow. These burrows can be up to 15 feet (4.5 m) wide.
Baby armadillos are called pups. Twin births are common among armadillos.
Nine-banded armadillos have four identical pups of the same gender in every litter, and the seven-banded armadillo has eight to 15 identical pups at one time.
Pups mature quickly. They are weaned by two to four months. By nine to 12 months, the pups are mature and ready to have offspring of their own.
Armadillos can live anywhere from four to 30 years. The median life expectancy for three-banded armadillos is around 16 years.
Some people eat armadillos and claim it tastes like pork.
The nine-banded armadillo is the official state animal of Texas.
The giant armadillo can have up to 100 teeth.
The screaming hairy armadillo gets its name from the sound it makes when threatened. Don’t get the idea that they are cowards, however. They have been known to throw their bodies on top of snakes, killing them by cutting them with the sharp edges of their shells.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), armadillos are not endangered. Some species are vulnerable, though.
The Andean hairy armadillo is considered vulnerable because its population has declined by more than 30% in the past 10 years. The giant armadillo is also considered vulnerable because its population has decreased by at least 30% in the past 21 years.
These animals are truly industrious excavators that are great at digging, serve as excellent insect control, and both confuse and delight most humans who come across them.
Do you have any interesting or fun facts about Armadillos that we’ve missed? Share them here in the comments section below!