There are many species of armadillo and the common ones are nine-branded, naked-tailed, Yepes' mulita, seven-branded, hairy long-nosed armadillos etc. In the United States, particularly Texas and Florida, we deal with the Nine-Banded Armadillo.
The Armadillo is a mammal with an unusual appearance as its body parts resemble that of several other animals. Its ears look like that of an aardvark, shell like that of a turtle, feet like that of a lizard, face like a pig’s and a tail that looks like a smaller version of the extinct dinosaurs’. Besides that, an armadillo has an average body weight of 5kg, except for the giant armadillo that weighs as much as 60kg. The mammal generally has an average length of 2.5 feet.
The armadillo has a characteristic bony armor connected by skin which serves as a form of protection for it. The tail as well is encased in bony plates but the underside of the body is covered with hairy skin. This bony
armor thus covers the head region, the back, sides, tail and parts of their legs.
Armadillos typically have short legs for digging out food from the ground and making burrows, a sticky tongue for picking foods and about 80 - 100 teeth which they use for crushing their victims. An armadillo has more teeth than any other known mammal and the teeth, which continue growing throughout their lifespan, are not covered with enamel.
Though omnivorous, armadillos are mostly insectivores – they consume termites, spiders, worms, beetles and other invertebrates. And while they are poor-sighted, armadillos possess a sharp sense of smell with which they find their foods; they also like digging the ground for food with their claws. Once located, the sticky tongue is used to pick the food up and it is ingested. When the preferred foods are not available, amphibians, small reptiles, small mammals, fruits, tubers, seeds etc. become the food of choice for armadillos.
By nature, armadillos are nocturnal animals as they are more active late at night and very early in the morning. They are also great burrowers, which means that they are very adept at digging the ground and making burrows to live in. Their burrows can go as deep as 6 feet. Some species of armadillo are capable of rolling themselves up while others cannot. They exhibit a little form of territoriality, mostly in the females. Each armadillo claims and fights for its own territory, but these territories can sometimes overlap, especially that of male with female.
When predated on, they use their claws to fight and they are capable of running fast too. Armadillos can also jump up to limited heights to escape from predators. Most armadillos can roll themselves up as a form of
defense when in danger, and this seems to protect them a number of times in danger. The hard shell, although not as hard as that of turtle, is hard enough to save them from predators in some situations.
Generally, the armadillo is native to the Americas and it is known for staying near water, warm, and even rainy places. It is also found near grasslands, rainforests and bushland, but is not adapted to extremely cold or hot conditions due to the large body surface that is not insulated nor protected by fats. Most species of armadillo can float in water and can survive under water for a few minutes.
The mating periods of armadillos in different regions differ based on their location. For those in the Northern hemisphere, the mating season lasts between July and August, while it lasts from November to January for armadillos in the Southern hemisphere. After mating, a single egg is fertilized and this single fertilized egg later divides into 4 identical embryos.
So 4 identical armadillos are given birth to by the adult female, who also feeds them with milk for 12 weeks. Young armadillos stay with their mother for about a year, after which they leave and start reproducing as well. The life span of an armadillo is between 8 to 15 years depending on a lot of factors such as predation, availability of food, environmental condition etc.
The common predators of the armadillo are jaguars, alligators, bobcats, wolves, cougars, Florida panther, coyotes, fox, and so on.
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