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Armadillos

Updated on March 13, 2012

Which is the most unusual mammal?

Covered in its tortoise-like shell, the Armadillo is an extraordinary animal.

Nevertheless, in spite of its double coat of horny, bony armor, it is well and truly a mammal. The bristles that appear between the rings of its shell are the proof of this. In addition, it brings its young into the world and suckles them. But its strange appearance makes it look to us as if it came from the beginning of time. The descendant of an ancestor related to the giant Glyptodon- whose shells the first inhabitants of South America used for living in-it has certain primitive characteristics that put it into the curious family of the Edentata.

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Do armadillos have teeth?

This family is a sort of lumber room into which zoologists, who classify mammals by the shape and arrangement of their teeth, put all those who do not conform to accepted patterns. Edentata means toothless but among the toothless mammals such as the anteater there are others such as the armadillo. This is not too badly off to say that it is toothless: depending on the kind of armadillo, it can have between 28 and 100 teeth (they are quite small though).

The armadillo has another characteristic: it gives birth to more identical twins than any other mammal. Truly identical twins come from the same egg which splits at the very beginning of its life. Some armadillos can have several sets of identical quadruplets.

Where do armadillos live?

Although it is a 'primitive' animal the armadillo has survived over the centuries because of its great adaptability: a few decades ago it discovered the rubbish-dumps of the big towns where there was a plentiful supply of the roughage it needed, and since then has spread over a large area of the United States-even as far as some points on the Canadian border.

This 'prehistoric animal' has come to full bloom under modern conditions.

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