Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin

Nine-Banded Armadillo

Dasypus novemcinctus

Description

Nine-banded armadillos have a hard, scaled shell, known as ‘armor’ which is used as protection against predators. When threatened, an armadillo can tuck into this armor and form a tough, round, ball. They are burrowing mammals with poor eyesight and hearing, but a keen sense of smell for finding insects in the ground. Nine-banded armadillos can grow to be 15-17 inches long; with a tail of14-16 inches long and they can weigh 8-17 lbs (about the size of a cat).

Habitat

Nine-banded armadillos are native to South America, but now they can be found in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Louisiana. A nine-banded armadillo cannot survive places where the ground is too hard to dig. They are very good burrowers. They can create multiple burrows within a habitat but will use only one for rearing young. These habitats include brush, woods, scrublands and grasslands.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

Nine-banded armadillos do not have any front teeth; they have rows of 28-32 peg-like teeth in the back of the mouth. Their diet consists mostly of insects and invertebrates but on occasion they will eat a small vertebrate, berries, or mushrooms. They burrow to find insects and other invertebrates. They also will root around ground litter to find their food.

Reproduction

Nine-banded armadillos are mammals with interesting breeding behaviors. They breed in July, but the embryo is dormant until November. In March the females give birth to four young which are always the same gender because they are identical quadruplets. The armor of armadillo young is soft and leathery, becoming firmer with age.

Months and Times of Activity

Nine-banded armadillos sleep in their burrows during the day and become active in the evening, night or early morning.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

  • Many other animals use abandoned armadillo burrows as homes.
  • Armadillos are good swimmers, they can even walk underwater.
  • The armadillo is the official small mammal of the state of Texas.
  • Armadillos are the only mammal that gives birth to multiple young from a single embryo every time they breed.
  • Fossil records show the ancestor of the nine-banded armadillo to be as big as a rhinoceros 60 million years ago!
  • Book:  Armando: An Adventreous Nine-banded Armadillo Tale by Burk and Lopez

References

"Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus Novemcinctus)." Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/species/dillo/>.


Schaefer, J.M, and Hostetler, M.E. (2012). The Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus). University of Florida. IFAS Extention. EDIS.#WEC 76.