The armadillo, a funny shell mammal

Today we count 21 species of armadillos, mammals to say the least surprising with their shell that evokes a kind of chainmail. Let’s find out who the armadillo is, this solitary animal, the official emblem of Texas but which more widely symbolizes North America.

Armadillo: main characteristics

The term armadillo (Cingulata) designates several species of the family Chlamiphoridae and that of Dasypodidae. Note that the latter also includes armadillos which have now disappeared. The range of armadillos includes, Central America and South America.

These omnivorous or insectivorous mammals are covered with a horny plaque, a sort of shield that protects them against predators. As soon as they feel assaulted or fearful, these animals curl up in the same way as the pangolin. The armadillo has short legs, at the end of which we can see powerful claws, curved. He can swim and when he has to move in an aquatic environment, he inflates with air. He has a great capacity for adaptation.

The armadillos shell is composed of a layer of horn which covers various bone plates articulated between them. In some species, skin folds separate these plaques from each other, while in other armadillos the different parts of the shell are separated by scaly bands. This shell is used to make a plucked string musical instrument, the charango, mainly in Bolivia. But in some regions the skin of the armadillo can be used to make baskets.

Among the 21 species we can cite for example the dwarf armadillo, the giant armadillo weighing 50 to 55 kg, the three-banded armadillo, the nine-banded armadillo also called common armadillo or the large hairy armadillo.

Thelife expectancy of an armadillo is 12 to 15 years old.

Armadillo: way of life and reproduction

The armadillo is a great loner outside the breeding season. It is a burrowing animal, pacifist, which does not attack its congeners to defend its food. He prefers to flee the promiscuity rather than to fight. This animal does not mark its territory like many other species do. On the other hand, males defend their female as well as their place of life which is a terrier hollowed out with their claws, lined with a thick layer of leaves, and composed of several galleries.

The mode of reproduction of armadillos presents a particularity: thedeferred implantation. This means that after mating, the fertilized egg can wait for several months before attaching to the uterine wall where it can then develop. This helps protect future children against the risk of famine due to a severe food shortage or even against major climatic hazards. This deferral can last up to seven months. Once the egg is implanted in the uterus, the gestation lasts four months (120 days).

At birth, armadillo babies have a shell, but it is still soft and will harden in a few weeks. Their mother takes great care of her offspring who can stay with her for up to a year. She invests a lot in teaching them to fend for themselves.

Armadillos are animals exclusively nocturnal difficult to observe and therefore to study. It can be noted, however, that in the nine-banded armadillo, a female always gives birth to quadruplets born from the same ovum and of the same sex – they are all strictly identical -, and that other species have only one small every two years as appears to be the case of the giant armadillo.

Although the armadillo has not yet revealed all its secrets, the nine-banded armadillo species is known to be very susceptible to Hanson’s bacillus (Mycobacterium leprae, the bacteria responsible for leprosy and that it has been implicated in numerous cases of contamination in humans. This disease is extremely serious and scientists are working on the search for a vaccine against leprosy. The nine-banded armadillo has also been used for research into this disease.

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