Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Xenartha
Family:    Dasypodidae
Size:    Length: 24 to 32 inches (61 to 80 cm) 
Weight: 8 to 17 pounds (3.6 to 7.7 kg)
Diet: Insects, small birds, reptiles and amphibians, eggs, carrion, roots and fruit
Distribution: United States, Mexico and South America
Young:  4 identical offspring, once a year
Animal Predators:  Dogs, wild cats, maned wolves, black caimans, alligators, coyotes, raccoons and black bears
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young:  Pup
Lifespan: 12 to 15 years



·       The name “armadillo” means “little armoured one” and originated from Spanish conquistadors.

·       Nine-banded armadillo are the only mammals besides humans to suffer from lepromatid leprosy.

·       Sloths and anteaters are the closest relatives of armadillos.

·       The scientific family name Dasypodidae is derived from the Greek word Dasypodis, and means rabbit with a turtle shell.

·       Armadillos have a total of 28 to 100 small, peg-shaped molars with no enamel.

·       There are 20 species of armadillos today.

·       The nine-banded armadillo was proclaimed the official “small mammal” of Texas on October 3, 1981.



Nine-banded armadillos, also known as long-nosed armadillos, have brownish-black to grey bands of hard armour covering their back, sides and tail, with bits of hair protruding through the bands. The head is covered by an additional piece of armour. Although they are called nine-banded, these armadillos may have as many as 11 or as few as seven bands. They have a ringed tail and a pointy snout. Males are usually slightly larger than females. 



All armadillos originated in South America, and they still live throughout almost the entire continent, as well as on the islands of Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago. Although armadillos once lived in North America, they became extinct five to ten thousand years ago. In the mid-nineteenth century, nine-banded armadillos began to move northwards again, and now inhabit Mexico and several states including Oklahoma, Missouri, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. As well, they have been introduced to Florida because of their predation on harmful insects. The current armadillo population in the United States is an estimated 30 to 50 million. Armadillos are not territorial and tend to live peacefully amongst one another. They dig burrows to sleep in and several armadillos of the same gender, or a mating male and female, may inhabit the same burrow. Armadillos can be found in forest, rainforest, savannah and grassland environments. 


Feeding Habits

Nine-banded armadillos eat mostly insects (an individual can eat more than 40,000 ants at one sitting), but their diet also includes small birds, reptiles and amphibians, carrion, roots and fruit. Smell is the main sense used to locate food. Their long, sticky tongue and strong claws enable them to dig up ant nests and slurp up the insects scurrying about inside. 



Armadillos are the only mammals that always give birth to four identical young. These same gender quadruplets grow from the same egg. Normally the gestation period is four months, though female armadillos can delay implantation and may give birth up to two years after mating, which occurs in July or August. The pups are born with a soft shell that gradually gets harder as they grow. Armadillos are born with their eyes open and are able to walk within hours of their birth. In a few weeks, they begin to follow their mother while she roots for food. The pups nurse for approximately two months, and stay with their mother for several more months after being weaned, until the mother is ready to give birth to another litter.  



Despite the popular belief that armadillos curl up into balls when threatened, there is only one species—the three-banded armadillo—that can actually curl into a ball. Nine-banded armadillos curl up as much as they can but their shell has too many bands to be able to curl up entirely. The thin shell of the nine-banded armadillo offers little protection and can be bitten through by most predators. When predators approach, nine-banded armadillos hide in brush, dive into a burrow, or if water is nearby, swim to safety. Strong surface swimmers, they can also walk underwater along the bottom of a river for a good distance. Armadillos have a very high metabolism and store no fat to insulate their bodies. Instead, they rely on warm temperatures to survive. They are believed to be nocturnal during the summer when the days are hot, but in winter, they soak up heat from the sun during the day in order to keep warm.  



Nine-banded armadillos are the most widespread of the armadillo species and are not of conservation concern at this time.



Nine-banded Armadillo Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US