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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Armadillos: super armored animal

  • The armadillo is so heavy it will sink in water unless it inflates its stomach with air. Even then only its nose shows above the water.
  • All four young, always of the same sex, are identical quadruplets and developed from the same egg. Armadillos are the only mammals in which multiple young form from a single egg with any regularity.
  • Despite its short legs, the armadillo moves relatively quickly. With its strong feet and thick claws it can burrow with considerable speed.
  • A full grown armadillo is about the size of a large lunchbox, and weighs around 17 pounds.
  • Because of its naturally low body temperature, armadillos have been used in leprosy research that includes the development of a vaccine.
  • Many towns in Texas hold beauty pageants for armadillos. Contestants groom, show and race their pet armadillos.
  • The armadillo is covered with platelets on its midsection, has hornlike skin, stiff hoods on its shoulders and hips, and additional protection on its face, tail and feet. Only its abdomen is unprotected.
  • The armadillo eats ants, worms and other ground insects and is classified as a meat eater.
  • Fossil remains of extinct giant armadillos have been found in the Pleistocene strata of South America.
  • Armadillo flesh is palatable and is used for food.
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Superorder: Xenarthra
Order: Cingulata

Armadillos are small placental mammals, known for having a leathery armor shell. The Dasypodidae are the only surviving family in the order Cingulata, part of the superorder Xenarthra along with the anteaters and sloths. The word armadillo is Spanish for "little armored one".

Armadillos are prolific diggers. Many species use their sharp claws to dig for food, such as grubs, and to dig dens. The Nine-banded Armadillo prefers to build burrows in moist soil near the creeks, streams, and arroyos around which it lives and feeds. The diet of different armadillo species varies, but consists mainly of insects, grubs, and other invertebrates. Some species, however, are almost entirely formicivorous (feeding mainly on ants).

Armadillos are often used in the study of leprosy, since they, along with mangabey monkeys, rabbits and mice (on their footpads), are among the few known non-human animal species that can contract the disease systemically. They are particularly susceptible due to their unusually low body temperature, which is hospitable to the leprosy bacterium.

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