The most notable feature of an armadillo is its “armor”, which is made of bone covered by leathery plates of skin. Nine-banded Armadillos typically have nine bands around their middle, but it is possible for them to have fewer than nine bands. An armadillo has a small head with a long snout and large ears. Nine-banded Armadillos have short legs containing toes (four on the front feet, five on the back feet) with claws. Their bodies contain small amounts of short, bristly hair.
A Nine-banded Armadillo is roughly 30 inches long (76 cm) from nose to tip of the tail) and weighs about 12 pounds (5.4 kg).
- A Nine-banded Armadillo can hold its breath for up to 6 minutes! This comes in handy when crossing shallow rivers or streams. They cross by either swimming or walking across the riverbed.
- An armadillo’s hard “armor” provides protection from predators.
- An armadillo’s long, sticky tongue helps it to capture and consume insects.
- If an armadillo sees danger, it retreats to its burrow, where it arches and stiffens its back. This expands the animal’s body size and makes it difficult to remove it from the burrow.
- Nine-banded Armadillos have an excellent sense of smell. They travel with their noses just above the ground, sniffing for food under the surface. They also have a good sense of hearing. These senses help to compensate for their poor vision.
- Nine-banded Armadillos can avoid predators by jumping straight up into the air and by sprinting short distances.
Nine-banded Armadillos consume primarily insects and invertebrates. They also eat eggs, small reptiles and amphibians, and plant material in small amounts. At Cosley Zoo, the armadillo is fed a commercial insectivore diet, insects, mealworms, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Nine-banded Armadillos are typically solitary animals, but will briefly pair up in the summer to mate. After the egg is fertilized, implantation of the egg is delayed for several months, allowing the young armadillo to be born in the spring, when weather is warmer, after a four-month gestation. Nine-banded Armadillos give birth to four young at a time, and the young are identical quadruplets! The young armadillos’ leathery skin is soft at birth, taking a few weeks to harden into the protective armor.
Shelter and Space Needs
Nine-banded Armadillos are found in the southeastern United States. Their range extends as far north as southern Illinois. They prefer forests and grasslands. Armadillos make their homes in underground burrows which contain multiple entrances and are lined with grasses and leaves. Armadillos cannot tolerate cold temperatures due to their lack of hair and body fat.
This species of armadillo can live 7-20 years in the wild. The oldest known Nine-banded Armadillo in captivity lived to be 23 years old.
Relationship with Man
Armadillos have served as a food source for humans, particularly during The Great Depression, when they were nicknamed “Poor Man’s Pork”. Humans have allowed the Nine-banded Armadillo to greatly expand its range by eliminating its predators and constructing roadways which the armadillo uses to travel. Nine-banded Armadillos prey on agricultural pests, although they have also been known to feed on the crops themselves.
- The word “armadillo” means “little armored one”.
- Not all armadillos can curl up into a tight ball. Nine-banded Armadillos can curl up, but not to the extent that other armadillos can. Two other armadillo species, both of which are Three-banded Armadillos, can roll up into tight balls.
- A baby armadillo is called a pup.