Armadillo -- Official Mascot of Texas
Types of Armadillos In the U.S. and What They Eat
There are twenty some different species of armadillos, but only the 9 banded armadillo lives in Texas. – or for that matter, anywhere in the United States. About the size of a very large housecat and weighing as much as 18 pounds, armadillos eat grubs, spiders, insects, earthworms, and smaller reptiles and amphibians, so armadillos can be quite useful in keeping the supply of unwanted critters down. They even eat ants, including fire ants. Anything that destroys or removes fire ants makes points with me.
Unusual Armadillo Characteristics
Armadillos are mammals with some unusual characteristics. When they give birth, there are always 4 babies and those babies are always the same sex. They are identical quadruplets because the fertilized egg splits into quarters.
If that is not unusual enough, armadillos can willfully delay implantation of a fertilized egg when they are in a stressful situation, and they can do that for a very long time. Weird Facts.com reports that at least one captured female delayed implantation of a fertilized egg so that she did not give birth for 2 years! The normal gestation period for armadillos is 8-9 months.
Weird Facts.com also states that an armadillo’s sex organs remain active even after being separated, or “disconnected” from the armadillo. There was no explanation of this statement, and maybe that is just as well . . .
Armadillo Defenses Against Predators
When an armadillo is frightened, it sometimes jumps into the air in an effort to scare predators. If that fails it will run like . . . crazy, and attempt to find a secure hiding place. Failing that, it will sometimes fall down dead – pretend dead, that is. So if you see an armadillo lying on it’s back with feet in the air, it may not be what it looks like. It is an armadillo, but not a dead armadillo – necessarily.
Armadillos loose teeth throughout their lives, but still have about a hundred teeth at any given time. Do not put your fingers in their mouth.
The three-banded armadillo is the only member of the species that can roll itself up into a ball in order to protect its soft underbelly from predators. The carapace, or shell, which is the armadillo’s main defense against predators, is made of a combination of bone and tough tissue coating that includes approximately 2,000 scales that are composed of keratin, which is a protein.
How Stuff Works explains, “The carapace is divided into the anterior scapular shield over its forequarters and the posterior pelvic shield over its hindquarters. Between those two shields are a series of bands that vary depending on the armadillo species. These softer bands look like an accordion and allow for mobility. In most armadillos, the two shields are attached to the skin on all sides.”
It is a little different for the three-banded armadillo. “Its shields are unattached along its lateral sides, and it has extra room between the skin and the shell for tucking in [it’s appendages – tail, legs, etc.]. Other armadillos can hunch over to attempt to conceal most of their abdomens, but their shields provide no space for retracting their limbs,” (HowStuffWorks.com).
Armadillos Can Walk Under the Water
Armadillos can stop breathing for as long as 6 minutes at a time, and they can walk under the water. They do not swim, but will walk under the water on the bottom of a lake or stream to get to the other side.
I have read that armadillos can be housebroken. Having an armadillo for a live-in pet could be the healthy way to keep your home insect free in lieu of pesticides and insecticides. Although armadillos are the only animal other than humans that can contract leprosy, and it is possible to get that disease from an armadillo.
Armadillos Became the Official Mascot of Texas In 1981
The armadillo has been a popular Texas souvenir since before the 1900s – not the real animal, but items shaped and painted like armadillos, or items having armadillos painted on them.
In the 1970s armadillo racing became popular entertainment not only in Texas, but all over the world. That remains true today. If you would like to observe some armadillo races, there is a short video of an armadillo race at the end of this hub.
The armadillo became the official mascot for the state of Texas in 1981 by executive decree. Bill Clements, governor of Texas at the time, signed the order because the Texas Legislature was not keen on making the armadillo the official state animal of Texas, and so they voted the attempt down.
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