This week our animal is a unique little mammal that comes with its own protection similar to a turtle or tortoise. It’s the good old six-banded armadillo, an omnivore that is well populated in South America. Specifically you can find these armadillos in Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Armadillos are in the superorder “Xenartha”, a group that also consists of anteaters and sloths. The six-banded armadillo is adept at digging to find prey and create burrows to live in. However, they have very poor eyesight so they rely heavily on their sense of smell to detect predators and prey. While these guys may be little, averaging around 20 inches big, they have a fairly long lifespan ranging between roughly 18-22 years.
What does an armadillo feel like?
While some things may be a little misleading, generally an armadillo feels like how it looks. Armadillos have a hard shell on their backs, known as a carapace, and that protection is tough like your fingernails. However they have softer skin between the bands in their carapace to allow for flexibility. Many people think of an armadillo rolling itself into a ball but the truth is only the three-banded armadillo can do this. Other species must resort to digging a hole in the ground to protect their soft bellies with only their hard carapace exposed.
What do you call a group of armadillos?
Often we think of a group of animals as a pack, or possibly a herd. However if you’ve read our blog on the domestic ferret, you know that animal groups can have crazy names! Last week we talked about how a group of killer whales is referred to as a “pod”. Well here’s another wacky one for you defenders – a group of armadillos is known as a “fez”!
Can an armadillo hurt you?
In terms of raw power, an armadillo really poses no threat to a human. We are much bigger and stronger, and their main aggressive way to defend themselves is to attack with their claws. While nobody is at risk of a lethal armadillo attack, they actually can be very dangerous because of some diseases they might carry. Armadillos are capable of transmitting leprosy to humans through their scratches. In addition to this they can also transmit rabies through their bites. However they rarely bite so this is less of an issue. Either way, just like any wild animal you always want to give it space and respect, and enjoy the beauty of these animals from a distance!
Can an armadillo live without its shell?
As we now know, not all armadillos can curl up to protect themselves – only the three-banded armadillo can do that. Armadillos are unique in being the only mammals to have a shell. However just like turtles and tortoises, the animal cannot survive without their shell. In South America, many armadillos were hunted for their shells to create an instrument known as the “charango”. Nowadays these instruments are made with wood or gourds.