Armadillos are mammals, and their scientific name is Dasypodidae. The name armadillo is Spanish, meaning “little armoured one,” and refers to the animal’s physical structure. There are 20 species of the animal common in Latin America, with only one species found in the US.
Distinctive features of the armadillo
- Its life span is 15 years, and an adult can grow to 59 inches weighing 120 pounds.
- Bony plates cover its body, including the legs, head and tail, and it is the only mammal with such features.
- It has small eyes and a shovel-shaped snout.
- Its legs are strong with front claws for digging up food and shelter. And when frightened, it can jump 4ft into its air using its legs.
- It also has a long sticky tongue which it uses for extracting insects.
- Armadillo varieties are distinguished by color and size. For instance, the salmon-colored pink fairy armadillo is 6 inches long, while the dark-brown giant armadillo is 5ft long. There are also yellowish, gray, red and black armadillos.
- A few species of the armadillo can fully curl into their shell for protection. They do so by curling the head and back feet and deforming the shell into a ball.
- Armadillos inhabit warm temperate climates, which include semi-deserts, grasslands and rainforests. They can hardly survive cold weather as many die during extremely cold seasons.
- They live in dug-up burrows sleeping for approximately16 hours a day.
- They are up and about during early mornings and evenings foraging insects.
- Since they have poor eyesight, they use their enhanced senses of smell for hunting.
- They are omnivorous, eating fruits, small vertebrates, plants, and at other times scavenging.
- Armadillos live in solitary and only interact during a three-month breeding period.
- The animal’s gestation period is four months and always gives birth to quadruplets. The mother’s nurses the young ones for one year before they become independent.