Nine-Banded Armadillo

Family: 
Dasypodidae (armadillos) in the order Xenarthra
Description: 

This unusual looking animal cannot be confused with any other mammal in Missouri. It does not have furry skin; instead, it has hair only between hardened plates of skin that nearly encompass the body. There are two large plates with a series of 9 smaller moveable “girdles” or “bands” around the midsection. The head, short legs and tail are covered with plates. The toes have well-developed claws. Overall color is mottled dark brown to yellowish white.

Size: 
Total length: 23–31 inches; tail length: 9½–14½ inches; usual weight: 11¾–14 pounds.
Habitat and conservation: 
A variety of terrestrial habitats are used, but they seem to prefer oak-hickory or shortleaf pine forests. Because they dig burrows in the ground, they select wooded bottomlands, brushy areas and fields with ground cover and loose soil. Their sight and hearing are poor, and they have the unusual habit of jumping upright when frightened, which explains why so many are hit by automobiles. They can run fast when pursued, and when cornered they often curl into a ball, protected by their shell.
Foods: 
Armadillos eat foods of animal origin—mostly insects and other invertebrates. Ants, adult and larval beetles and flies are the main items, but earthworms and an occasional reptile round out the diet. Fungi and fruit are occasionally taken. Food is located by the nose, which is held close to the ground. The sharp claws then dig to expose the food, which is flicked into the mouth with the long sticky tongue.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Primarily in the southern half of the state. The armadillo’s range is limited by cold weather.
Status: 
Common. The population density in Missouri is low and further expansion is unlikely, as armadillos are limited by extreme cold. They do not hibernate, and they are not adapted for finding food when snow and ice prevent access to the insects and other invertebrates they eat.
Life cycle: 
Breeding occurs in the summer followed by a delay of 2–3 months during which the embryo divides into four cells before each one becomes implanted in the uterus. This results in four young that are identical, including sex (they are identical quadruplets). After 4 months’ implantation, the young are born. Newborn young have no shell, but their eyes are open and they can move about. They are weaned when 3 months old and become mature at 12–15 months of age. In summer they are mostly nocturnal.
Human connections: 
Armadillos are quite desirable, for they destroy harmful insects and are valuable as food. Also, armadillos are currently being used in biomedical research on the bacterium that causes leprosy. On the negative side, their excavations can cause problems with buildings, lawns and gardens.
Ecosystem connections: 
Armadillos are important predators of insects, and despite the toughness of their shells, many doubtless become food for carnivores. Armadillos are also important makers of dens, which are used by many other animals.