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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. Read more about The Armadillo's Diet.
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. For more information, read the guide What is the Armadillo's Habitat?
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. Read the guide Mating Habits of Armadillos.
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.
The armadillo is a very strange creature to look at, and for most people in the United States, they will either live in the north and will have rarely seen an armadillo, or they will live in the south of the country, and will have seen far too many armadillos. Indeed, when it comes to describing these creatures, the most common is the Nine-Banded Armadillo, and looks like a cross between a large rat crossed with an armored vehicle.
The most distinctive feature of the armadillo is the heavy armor plates that protect the majority of its body, and these scales provide a great amount of protection for the animal. The head is quite small with a pink snout, and coming out from beneath the armor is a thick tail that also has a strong layer of protective scales.
The armadillo usually weighs between two and seven kilos, and in total they can grow to be up three and a half feet in length, including the tail which can be nearly two feet long. The scent glands that are used by armadillos to mark their territory are actually found on the eyes, nose and feet.
The armadillo will usually mate between July and August, but will retain the fertilized egg until it is appropriate to allow the young to develop, meaning that a litter of four young is born in the spring each year. The baby armadillos reach sexual maturity after one year, but can then reproduce giving birth to four young every year over a lifespan which can reach fifteen years in some cases.
In their natural habitat, armadillos tend to live in wooded areas where the ground has plenty of cover, where they will find much of their cover and the food that they forage. Armadillos are generally suited to warmer climes, so tend to be found in the south and east of the United States, as well as throughout Central America and into the northern reaches of South America too.
These creatures have a very developed sense of smell, and it is this sense that they use to detect their food, which is mainly made up of grubs, worms and insects. In order to catch these small food sources, they will dig holes in the earth, and then hoover up the little animals into their snout. Read Reasons Why Armadillos Dig.
One of the interesting aspects of an armadillo's behavior is its ability to leap into the air, which it will do to a height of several feet if it is startled, which often happens if it strays on to a road at night. When surprised by a predator, the armadillo will dig a shallow trench and hide beneath its shell, which is a remarkably successful way of fending off other animals. Read the guide Are Armadillos Good Pets?
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