The Nine-Banded Armadillo

By Dave Hanks

The Armadillo is cat-sized, armored, and its hard, dorsal surface has nine bands that allow the animal to curl into a hard, scaly ball when threatened by a predator. Few animals have as many dens per individual as the Armadillo, and because they are almost hairless, climatic conditions easily affect them. They are found in our southwest, where they are nocturnal during the hot summer months, and diurnal in winter. This insectivore loves water, not only for drinking and feeding, but for taking mud baths. Populations will concentrate close to a stream or pond. Their bodies are dense, which causes them to ride low in the water when swimming. Interestingly, though they like water, they avoid marshy areas.

The Armadillo mates in July and the embryo remains suspended in fluids within the uterus until November when it attaches and starts to develop. From a single ovum, four identical quadruplets are always produced. After a four month gestation period, the young are born with their eyes open, and they are able to accompany their mother on foraging excursions. They are weaned after two months, but still stay with their mother. Young become mature enough to breed the following year.

We noticed that the Armadillo is a mascot for some Texas schools and also for the Texas Linguistic Society. There must be a lot of them down there, because we have seen many lying along the roads as road-kill. On a few occasions we have seen them digging through the ground litter searching for food. They have also become a food source, and their meat is considered to be similar in texture and flavor to pork.

This quaint species seems as if it belongs to a time now past, or to another world.

(The Texas State Mammal Symbol)