Nine-Banded Armadillo Fact File
Wild 15 years
Captive 23 years
The nine-banded armadillo is named for the hard armor plating which covers its back and this most often includes 9 bands. Some individuals have more or less bands.
These animals are omnivores. They primarily use their keen sense of smell and long snout to seek out insects and other small animals though fruits and seeds are also consumed.
Females produce four young each time they give birth and these are identical siblings which are all of the same gender. These young are born in the spring after a period of delayed implantation.
Nine-banded armadillos are benefiting from the expansion of the human populations. Bridges help them to cross rivers they previously couldn’t and expand their range while climate change is warming areas that were previously too cold to inhabit.
Learn more about these marvellous mammals by reading on below.
The nine-banded armadillo is named for the body armor on its back which includes an average of nine bands. These are hard plates covered by leathery skin.
Some individuals have more or less armor bands. This hard armor is an adaptation which provides protection against attack by other animals. They can roll in to a ball and this protects the soft underside.
On the feet of the nine-banded armadillo are long claws which help them to dig to find food.
Their head is long and pointed. It extends out to a snout at the mouth. This snout is pinkish in color. Atop the head are two large, pointed ears.
The sides and belly feature wiry hairs which can be used to sense their environment.
Their tail can extend the body out to a total length of 90cm (35in) long.
These animals measure 24-57cm (9.5-22.5in) long with a weight of 1-10kg (2.2-22lbs).
Nine-banded armadillos are omnivores. They will feed on insects, worms, reptiles, amphibians, fruit, roots and seeds. Their diet includes 500 different foods.
To help catch insects they are equipped with a long, sticky tongue.
Foraging takes place alone. Their long nose is used to probe crevices or under logs to seek out food. They have a keen sense of smell to help find food.
North and South America are the native homes of the nine-banded armadillo. Here they can be found in the following countries – Argentina; Belize; Bolivia; Brazil; Colombia; Costa Rica; Ecuador; El Salvador; French Guiana; Grenada; Guatemala; Guyana; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama; Paraguay; Peru; Suriname; Trinidad and Tobago; United States; Uruguay and Venezuela.
They are the only one species of armadillo with a range which extends north to the United States. This species also has the widest range of any armadillo.
Their range is being expanded as climate change makes areas warmer turning them in to suitable nine-banded armadillo habitat.
Nine-banded armadillos make use of a wide range of habitats an adaptation which allows them to enjoy a wide range. These include savanna, shrubland, forest and grassland.
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Outside of the breeding season these animals are solitary. They meet in the summer to mate. During this period they may share a nest which is thought to be a means for the male to protect mating rights with the female. Males and females may mate with multiple partners each season.
Females give birth after a four month gestation period. They exhibit delayed implantation meaning the egg does not actually implant immediately. This means the young are born in spring when the weather is warmer. Interestingly they always produce quadruplets and these four young are all male or all female.
Young nurse on milk provided by their mother for two months.
When they are born the shell is not fully hardened and this leaves them vulnerable to predators.
The baby armadillos are known as pups.
Sexual maturity is reached at one year old.
The nine-banded armadillo is a successful swimmer. This is aided by the ability to hold largest amounts of air within their digestive tract. This allows them to hold their breath for up to 6 minutes at a time.
In areas with a warm climate the nine-banded armadillo will emerge at night and be primarily nocturnal. When it is colder they can emerge during the day.
They will live in a burrow. At the end of this is a chamber filled with dried grasses which is used as the nest. Some do not burrow and instead nest above ground. This may be shared with other individuals. They may maintain multiple burrow sites.
Often debris is placed around the burrow entrance in an attempt to hide it. Each burrow can have multiple entrances.
Once abandoned these burrows may be occupied by snakes, burrowing owls and mammals such as rats, mink and striped skunks.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the nine-banded armadillo include alligators, maned wolves, coyotes, cats such as mountain lions and jaguars, black bears and birds of prey.
When threatened the nine-banded armadillo most often runs away when threatened. If this is not possible they cannot roll up to protect themselves. This trait is only present in the three banded armadillos. Instead they dig or press themselves in to the ground to protect the soft belly.
When frightened they will jump straight up in the air.
Nine-banded armadillos are often victims of vehicle strikes.
Climate change is benefiting the population of nine-banded armadillos as it increases the areas of warm habitat in which they can use. Humans also remove predators from areas allowing them to expand their population.
The building of roadways and bridges has given them ways to cross waterways or canyons which previously would have acted as a barrier to the expansion of their population.
Armadillos may be eaten and during the great depression were nicknamed the “Hoover hog” by citizens who viewed the president as the cause of the depression. They are also hunted for use in crafts and medicines.
Some are also killed as they are seen as a pest in gardens.
The name armadillo means ‘little armored one’ in Spanish.
The nine-banded armadillo is also known as the long-nosed armadillo.
Armadillos are the only other animals except humans which are recorded to contract leprosy and increasing cases of transmission between the two are being reported. In the past they have been used for studies in to the disease.
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gailhampshire from Cradley, Malvern, U.K, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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