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Armadillos more unusual animals of the world

Updated on March 28, 2013


This is the third in the series about unusual animals of the world here we review the fascinating armadillos.

Armadillos belong to the Super Order of Xenthra along with the sloths and anteaters, and the Order Cingulata. The generic name of Darypus means thick foot or hairy foot. We have the Spaniards to thank for the common name which means little armoured one.

The animals have many unusual peculiar components. The most salient being of course the armour, or plates, with which the upper parts of the body is covered. This covering has a considerable resemblance of the plate armour { formerly used as a protective body covering in battle} It comprises of a number of tranverse bands or segments marked by a succession of studs. These bands on some parts of the body are united into broad bucklers, each consisting of a single piece, and movable only as a whole, despite the apparent number of bands of which it is made up.

There are three of these broad pieces. The first covers the upper part of the head in the manner of a helmet. The second and third of these are made up of small pieces united by the skin which only allows minimum movement. The number of these bands, allows the distinction between the species, however, this is by no means a guarantee for that purpose, for sometimes the number may vary in the same species and even the same in different species.

The plate on the head, or helmet, is obviously much narrower than those on the body. It begins near the animals muzzle and passes towards the back of the head, in such a manner as to partially shadow the eyes, but not to cover them or the ears. it is composed of a number of small pieces, but very closely knit together to form a covering which is hard and very strong. from the edges of the whole, there are two rows of hard tubercles, which pass under the eyes, become gradually smaller and end on the cheeks.

Nine banded armadillo

The body armour is almost impregnable
The body armour is almost impregnable | Source

Characteristics continued

The buckler [plate} on the neck and shoulders is a much larger proposition and comes down so as to conceal the greater part of the forelimbs, with the exception of the feet. The intermediate plates and on the 'saddle' part of the body comes down a long way also, almost concealing the back legs.

The tail is also armoured, this comprises of a greater or smaller number of rings, not absolutely solid, but only allowing restricted movement of the tail. Thus, the whole animal is adequately armoured against attack of almost any animal. However, because of its protective armour , the armadillo is probably the least flexible of all animals. Indeed when it turns, it turns like a solid being, on legs, without any perceptible bending of the body even where the plates meet.

Even the animals head has a restricted movement, particularly when lifting its head upwards. When the armadillo bends its head downwards the movement is much less restricted..

The hard tubercles under the eyes, is covered with skin as is the whole under side of the body beneath the armour, and the legs have varying degrees of hair according to the species. The skin on the under side of the body is covered with tubercles and they are particularly hard on the legs and feet. the soles of the feet upon which the animal walks do not bear either the tubercles or hair.

The legs are relatively short, and, because they are concealed under the armour, they appear to be much shorter than they really are. the legs are thick and very strong. The feet are flat, with toes united by a membrane. In some species there are five on all feet. In others four on the foot of each front legs and five on each foot of the rear legs. The nails on the feet are large and strong, rounder on the upper surfaces and hollow on the under surface, they are designed and adapted for the purpose of digging.

To save a laborious read, going in to the anatomy details of the armadillos legs and feet, it is sufficient to state, that these limbs are moved in a peculiar and very powerful way, and are so designed for a continuous and vigorous digging action. The animal is capable of burrowing into the earth with an awesome speed. While burrowing the legs are not stretched, so that when it raises itself up on them the body is brought into some contact with upper part of the burrow. The armour is held fast against the earth, making them all but impossible to be removed from its tunnel.

Armadillo on hind legs.



Note the powerful feet and claws.
Note the powerful feet and claws. | Source

Food and feeding

Most of the species are very miscellaneous feeders. Tuberous roots and other vegetable matter, worms beetles, insects, carrion are all generally sought out by the armadillo. The teeth are not designed for chewing. And whatever, the number or location in the mouth, they are slender with gaps between them, and in the two jaws fall into intervals of each other when the jaws are closed, so they do not meet together tooth on tooth, or in any way designed to cut and bruise. thus the mouth is only an instrument employed for the taking of food only, and is of little assistance in preparing it for the stomach.

The stomach performs two main functions, first it prevents the food from entering the intestines before it is properly reduced to minute particles, and secondly the action of the mucular assists this process in the same manner, but probably not to the same extent, as the gizzards of birds. In some species, however, this structure varies in its form and is less developed than the ones that feed on animal substances.

though the head of the animal varies in the different species it is in general small and narrow with a well developed snout. The nostrils are terminal, and their sense of smell is acute. The tongue is soft, and to a certain extent protrudes from the mouth, but not well beyond the mouth, as in the case of the anteaters. It may assist in the capture of ants and insects and other smal prey for it is furnished with a sticky saliva, and, obviously suited for procuring food than for preparing it for the stomach.

Armadillos use their digging skills, not only for the purpose of burrowing as previously mentioned, but, they also apply these skills while digging for food. They unearth tuberous roots, worms and other small creatures with considerable speed. Although the structure of the tongue is not as well adapted for the capture of ants as those in the anteaters, and, they do not consume them to the same degree, they are capable of exterminating them just as quickly as those animals, when ants take their fancy.

With an amazing speed they dig down to where the ant eggs and larvae are gathered. Any disturbance of these subjects annoys the workers which mass around them in an attempt to save their offspring from an attack, these are consumed with relish by the armadillo. The holes that have been excavated to procure the eggs are deep and relatively wide, so much so, that they can not be filled by the ants. When rain falls it is easily filled up by the water down to the deepest chambers of the ant hill, thus the ants are driven out or drowned.

A full grown armadillo has few enemies. The armour is to thick to be penetrated by the teeth of a puma or any other of the few species that share the armadillos habitat.

A glimse of the species

Nine banded armadillo--Dasypus novemcinctus-- Pictured above inhabits North, Central and South America. It has a varied habitat preference which includes scrub land, open prairies and tropical rain forests.

Seven banded armadillo--Dasypus septemcinctus-- prefers dry habitat and this species inhabits Paraquay, Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia

Southern long nosed armadillo---Dasypus hybridus --Argentina, Brazil, Paraquay and Uruquay. It is classed as Near Threatened.

Llanos long nosed armadillo---Dasypus sabanicola { Columbia and Venezuela} an animal of dense cover.

Greater long nosed armadillo-- Dasypus kappleri-- favours habitat near streams and swamps and inhabits the countries of Columbia, Venezuela, Equador, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. It is a nocturnal species.

Hairy long nosed armadillo--Dasypus pilosus--is endemic to Peru where it is classed as being vulnerable, which in part is due to habitat loss.

Big hairy armadillo--Chaetiphractus villosus is the most abundant species in Argentina.

Pink fairy armadillo-- Chlamyphorus truncatus-- is the smallest species of armadillo which inhabits the dry grasslands and sandy plains of Central Argentina. it is a nocturnal species.

Screaming hairy armadillo--chaetophractus vellerosus is found in Central and southern South America.

Andean hairy armadillo--Chaetophractus nationi --is found in Bolivia, Possibly Peru and possibly northern Argentina it is classed as being Vulnerable.

Screaming hairy armadillo



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    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 5 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      DDE, Nice to see you here, Thank you for your kind comments, best wishes to you.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Most unusual for sure , an interesting life of the armadillo, I liked reading this hub voted up!!!

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 5 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Mr Archer,

      Good to read about your memories. Thank you for your encouraging comments they are appreciated. Best wishes to you.

    • Mr Archer profile image

      Mr Archer 5 years ago from Missouri

      Great read on a strange animal! In Arkansas many years ago we used to catch these critters for fun and bring them back and release them on campus. We would sneak up as close as possible, and when they ran we would run alongside, catch a toe underneath them and flip them over and then grab 'em and put them into a burlap sack. This was before I knew they carried leprosy, of course. Looking forward to reading more of your hubs, and if they are as good as this one, they'll be great reads!

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 5 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Faithful Daughter, Thank you for being the first to read and for taking the time to comment. It is an interesting story you convey. I am glad that you decided to share your driveway with the creature, it reveals to me that you are a kind person. Glad to meet you . Best wishes to you.

    • Faithful Daughter profile image

      Evi Lopez 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      This is an interesting read and voted up and interesting. It caught my eye immediately because I have one of these amazing little creatures living right under my drive-way. I discovered its holes in my yard one time, then one early morning, I hear my two dogs barking up a storm. When I went out to my backyard, I saw that the armadillo had dug under my fence and had created a burrow to protect itself from my dogs. I felt very bad for it, so I never had the wildlife experts come and remove him becase they told me they kill them instead of releasing them back to the wild. It still lives under my driveway :)


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