name comes from a Spanish word referring to its armor like covering.
The shell is made of a bone like casing. In the Nine-banded
Armadillo (the only species of armadillo found in Texas), the
armor consists of a large shield over the shoulders, a second
large shield over the rump, and nine bands in the middle. Because
the shell itself cannot grow nor be replaced as it grows, it
is soft and leathery when the Nine-banded
is born. It does not harden until it reaches its full adult
size of 8 to 15 pounds.
on the soles of its back feet and the tips of its claws on its
front feet, the Nine-banded
ambles along at no more than a third of a mile per hour. However,
it is able to run when danger threatens. Its hard shell allows
it to run through thorny underbrush when fleeing predators.
has a particularly interesting method for crossing water. Its
heavy armor shell causes it to sink. When faced with a narrow
stream or a water filled ditch, it will simply walk across the
bottom, under water. However, when up against a wider body of
water, the armadillo will swallow enough air to inflate its
stomach to twice its normal size. This increased buoyancy then
allows it to swim across. Afterwards, it takes several hours
to release all the excess air from its body.
its cousin the anteater, the armadillos love to feast on ants.
It's fond of all kinds of bugs, particularly larval and adult
scarab beetles. The Nine-banded
has a keen sense of smell and can sniff out a tasty meal six
inches underground. When digging for grubs, worms, and other
goodies, it leaves behind three to four inch cone shaped holes.
It regularly revisits these holes to gobble up any new bugs
or snails which may have slipped in. Its sticky, barbed tongue
aids it in picking up its food. It is also known to feed on
carrion, with a distinct preference for the maggots it finds
there. It has 30 to 32 teeth, all of them peg shaped molars.
Its shell provides insulation little insulation for its warm
blooded body. In the summer, it does most of its foraging in
the cool of the evening and at night.
Outside of the breeding season, adult Nine-banded
generally live alone. It may have up to 15 burrows (each eight
inches in diameter and two to twenty five feet long) in its
10 acre range. Some burrows have several entrances for emergency
access, but there is always a main entrance which it uses most
of the time. A
always bears an identical set of quadruplets, conceived from
a single fertilized egg. The initial embryo divides in two and
those two embryos divide, in turn, into two more. Thus every
is a clone of its three brothers or its three sisters.
distant counsin of the sloth and the anteater, the Nine-banded
Armadillo originated in South America. It immigrated to Texas
by way of Mexico in the 19th century. Its distribution today
is S USA, Mexico, Central and South America of N Argentina,
the Lesser Antilles (Grenada), and Trinidad and Tobago.