When you see an animal with a banded shell, you know you are looking at an armadillo. However, you may be surprised to learn these interesting facts about these fascinating creatures.
- There are 20 different species of armadillos around the world, but in the United States, you will only see the nine-banded armadillo. A couple of Texas residents spotted the first armadillo in the United States in the late 1840s. Since then, armadillos have migrated into other southern states and are gradually making their way north.
- An armadillo has a small head, small ears, a slender snout, and 28 to 32 teeth. They have four toes on their front feet and five toes on their back feet. They have long claws on each foot so they can easily dig in the dirt for their food.
- An adult nine-banded armadillo will grow to be about 2 to 2 1/2 feet long. This measurement includes their tail, which can be over one foot long by itself. The average weight of a male is 15 pounds and the smaller females will weigh closer to 10 pounds.
- A female armadillo has a gestation period of around four months and she will give birth in the early spring. The breeding season is in the summer months of July and August, but because a female armadillo has a delayed implantation, the fetus does not attach itself to the uterine wall until around the month of November.
- When an armadillo gives birth, she will have four identical babies at one time. The babies will be either all males or all females. The babies are born with their eyes open and they stay in the burrow and nurse their mother until they are around 3 weeks old.
- Armadillos have poor vision, so they have to rely on their sense of smell when searching for food. They mostly eat small insects such as ants, beetles, and spiders. An armadillo will also eat earthworms, small snakes, and frogs. They will also munch on fruit and seeds if they are available.
- Armadillos live in burrows, but they do not hibernate in the winter. When the weather is cold and the ground freezes or if there is snow on the ground, an armadillo cannot find food. Since they do not store body fat and they have to eat every day, they will often starve or freeze to death in cold weather conditions. For this reason, armadillos prefer warmer climates.
- When armadillos are frightened, they can jump three to four feet straight up in the air. If they are out foraging for food and a predator scares them, an armadillo can quickly scurry to his or her burrow or hide in weeds or briars.
- Crossing a body of water is easy for an armadillo and there are two ways that an armadillo can do this. One way is by sinking down to the bottom of the water and walking along the bottom using their claws. This method is effective because an armadillo can hold his or her breath for about 6 minutes before coming up for air. Another way they cross a body of water is by breathing a lot of air into their stomach and floating across.
- Humans and armadillos are the only living things that can acquire leprosy. Scientists think that armadillos can get the disease because of their low body temperature, which is 92 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Because armadillos can get leprosy, medical researchers have used armadillos to study this disease.