2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Mammals

Nine-banded Armadillo
Nine-banded Armadillo
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Superorder: Xenarthra
Order: Cingulata
Illiger, 1811
Family: Dasypodidae
Gray, 1821
  • Dasypus
  • Jaspyrus
  • Calyptophractus
  • Chaetophractus
  • Chlamyphorus
  • Euphractus
  • Zaedyus
  • Cabassous
  • Priodontes
  • Tolypeutes
  • Glyptodontidae (extinct)

Armadillos are small placental mammals of the family Dasypodidae, known for having a bony armor shell. Their average length is about 75 centimeters (30 inches), including tail. All species are native to the Americas, where they inhabit a variety of environments. In the United States, the sole resident armadillo is the Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), which is most common in the central southern states, particularly Texas.

Dasypodidae is the only surviving family in the order Cingulata. Until as recently as 1995, the family was placed in the order Xenarthra, along with the anteaters and sloths. There are several species of Armadillo, some of which are distinguished by the number of bands on their armor.

Habitat and physiology

Armadillos are prolific diggers, and many species use their sharp claws to dig for food such as grubs, and to dig dens. The Nine-banded Armadillo prefers to build burrows in moist soil near the creeks, streams and arroyos near which it lives and feeds. The diet of different armadillo species varies, but consists mainly of insects, grubs and other invertebrates. Some species, however, are almost entirely formicivorous (feeding mainly on ants).

Armadillos have poor vision but are not blind.

The armor is formed by plates of dermal bone covered in small, overlapping epidermal scales called " scutes". This armor-like skin appears to be the main defense of many armadillos, although most escape predators by fleeing (often into thorny patches, which their armor protects them from) or digging to safety. Armadillos have short legs but can move quickly, and have the ability to remain underwater for as long as six minutes. Only the South American three-banded armadillos ( Tolypeutes) rely heavily on their armor for protection. When threatened by a predator, Tolypeutes species frequently roll up into a ball. (Other armadillo species cannot roll up because they have too many plates.) The North American Nine-banded Armadillo tends to jump straight in the air when surprised, and consequently often collides with the undercarriage of passing vehicles.

Armadillos and science

Armadillos are often used in the study of leprosy, since they, along with mangabey monkeys, rabbits and mice (on their footpads), are among the few known non-human animal species that can contract the disease systemically. They are particularly susceptible due to their unusually low body temperature, which is hospitable to the leprosy bacterium. Wild armadillos can carry leprosy, but transmission to humans is rare.

The Nine-banded Armadillo also serves science through its unusual reproductive system, in which four identical quadruplets (all the same sex) are born in each clutch. Because they are always identical, the group of four young provides a good subject for scientific, behavioural or medical tests that need consistent biological and genetic makeup in the test subjects. This phenomenon of multiple identical birth, called polyembryony, only manifests in the genus Dasypus and not in all armadillos, as is commonly believed.

Armadillos and humans

The armadillo was, with some resistance, made the state small mammal of Texas , where it is considered a pest and is often seen dead on the roadside. In the state of Washington, it is illegal to own an armadillo.

Armadillos can be kept as pets, although they require moist ground in which to dig and catch insects. They are difficult to fully domesticate.

They first forayed into Texas across the Rio Grande from Mexico in the 1800s, eventually spreading across the southeast United States. They make common roadkill — jokingly described by some as "possums in a half shell" — and a burrowing nuisance to homeowners, cemetery caretakers and golf course superintendents.

Wildlife enthusiasts are using the northward march of the armadillo as an opportunity to educate others about the animals, which during the Great Depression were known as "Hoover Hogs" by down-on-their luck Americans who had to eat them instead of the "chicken in every pot" Herbert Hoover had promised as President.

Order Cingulata

  • Family Pampatheriidae: giant armadillos (extinct)
  • Family Glyptodontidae (extinct)
    • Glyptodon (extinct)
  • Family Dasypodidae: armadillos
    • Pink Fairy Armadillo, Chlamyphorus truncatus
    • Pichiciego, Chlamyphorus retusus
    • Northern Naked-tailed Armadillo, Cabassous centralis
    • Chacoan Naked-tailed Armadillo, Cabassous chacoensis
    • Southern Naked-tailed Armadillo, Cabassous unicinctus
    • Greater Naked-tailed Armadillo, Cabassous tatouay
    • Little Hairy Armadillo or Screaming Hairy armadillo, Chaetophractus vellerosus
    • Hairy Armadillo, Chaetophractus villosus
    • Andean Hairy Armadillo, Chaetophractus nationi
    • Nine-banded Armadillo or Long-nosed Armadillo, Dasypus novemcinctus
    • Seven-banded Armadillo, Dasypus septemcinctus
    • Southern Long-nosed Armadillo, Dasypus hybridus
    • Llanos Long-nosed Armadillo, Dasypus sabanicola
    • Great Long-nosed Armadillo, Dasypus kappleri
    • Hairy Long-nosed Armadillo, Dasypus pilosus
    • Six-banded Armadillo or Yellow Armadillo, Euphractus sexcinctus
    • Giant Armadillo or Tatou, Priodontes maximus
    • Southern Three-banded Armadillo, Tolypeutes matacus
    • Brazilian Three-banded Armadillo, Tolypeutes tricinctus
    • Pichi or Dwarf Armadillo, Zaedyus pichiy


  • In the Joe R. Lansdale novel Captains Outrageous, a Texan armadillo named Bob is kept as a pet by Leonard Pine, one of the central characters.
  • A stuffed armadillo plays an important role in John Irving's novel A Prayer for Owen Meany.
  • Because of the weight of its armor, an armadillo will sink in water unless it inflates its stomach with air, which often doubles its size.
  • A number of towns in Texas hold beauty pageants for armadillos.
  • Glyptotherium texanum (extinct) was a close cousin of the armadillo, living in the tropical and subtropical regions of Florida, South Carolina and Texas. It had a six-foot-long carapace and weighed in at approximately 2,000 pounds (1 ton).
  • Armadillos are one of the few mammals that mate face-to-face.
  • German POWs in Texas would often refer to the armadillo as "panzer schwein" (armored pig).
  • Recorded to be the animal with the most dreams in sleep (that is, with the most observed REM sleep).
  • Armadillos are very agile in the water and have been known to swim for up to two miles without rest.
  • "Armadillo" is Spanish for "little armored one".
  • Judge Harry Stone from the 1980s television show Night Court had a stuffed armadillo in his chambers.
  • The charango, a ten- string instrument related to the guitar and native to Andean South America, is traditionally made from the shell of an armadillo.
  • An unused potential character from the video game Sonic the Hedgehog was an armadillo, Mighty the Armadillo.
  • Army the Armadillo was a character in the Donkey Kong Country SNES and N64 games. It was a three-banded armadillo that rolled when approached. It required two hits by Diddy in a ball, and one by Donkey. The boss in 64 had rockets out of its shoulders.
  • The armadillo serves as the mascot of the Snell-Hitchcock dormitory at the University of Chicago.

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