Armadillo Fact Sheet

18 June 2024 Off By Bambam

Armadillos: mammals in the superorder Xenarthra.

Kingdom: | Animalia
Phylum: | Chordata
Class: | Mammalia
Order: | Cingulata

Armadillos form part of the superorder Xenarthra along with anteaters and sloths. There are 21 extant species of armadillo, some of which are distinguished by the number of bands on their armor.

Size and Weight:

Armadillos range widely in size depending on the species. The giant armadillo is the largest species, weighing up to 132 pounds and measuring up to 5 feet from head to tail. Meanwhile, the smallest species, the pink fairy armadillo, weighs up to 8 ounces and measures up to 5 inches from head to tail.


In Spanish, the word armadillo means “little armored one.” Armadillos are perhaps best known for their roly-poly shell with “armored” bands. The number of bands depends on the species. Their armor is formed by plates of dermal bone covered in overlapping epidermal scales called “scutes.” These scales are composed of keratin, like human nails. Their shell serves as a form of protection. When threatened, the armadillo usually runs, digs and presses its body into the dirt to prevent getting flipped over. The three-banded armadillo is the only species that can roll into a ball for protection.

Armadillos range in color from pink to dark brown, as well as black, gray or yellow. The amount of fur an armadillo has depends on the species. While most species appear bald, some have more fur than others. For example, the pink fairy armadillo is mostly furry with a little shell, while the nine-banded armadillo appears bald. The species that appear bald typically have wiry hairs on the sides and the belly. Armadillos have short legs but can move quickly. They have long claws for digging and peg-shaped teeth for munching on insects.


Armadillos are insectivores, with most of their diet consisting of insects and invertebrates. They also eat fruit, eggs, small animals, and even carrion.


Most armadillos prefer wetlands with thick shade and sandy soil that is easy to dig in. But armadillos are also found in thorn scrub, grasslands, and wooded areas. They burrow in grass, hollow logs, and occasionally underground.


All 21 species are native to the Americas, with most found in Central and South America.


Their breeding season varies depending on the species, with some species reproducing year-round. Gestation ranges from two to five months. The breeding pair do not form bonds, and the father does not stay to help raise the young. A female gives birth to a litter of 1 to 12 pups. The pups are born with a soft, gray shell. Within hours of being born, they can roll into a ball, and within a few days, their shell hardens. The mother nurses the pups for 2 to 4 months. The pups usually reach maturity between 9 and 12 months of age.

Social Structure:

Armadillos are often solitary creatures. However, when the weather is colder, armadillos may group together in burrows to stay warm. Armadillos cannot maintain their internal temperatures well because they have little body fat and thin shells. For this reason, their behavior changes depending on the season. During the warmer months, they are nocturnal and forage at night. Meanwhile, in the colder months, they become more diurnal and forage earlier in the day.


Their lifespan ranges from 4 to 30 years, depending on the species.


Threats to armadillos include domestic dogs, wild cats, raptors and humans. Humans threaten armadillos in several ways. Some consider them pests and call exterminators to rid them of their gardens. Vehicle collisions can occur when armadillos cross over roads while searching for food or new habitat. Some people eat armadillos or use their shells for items like purses. Habitat destruction is another major threat to armadillos.

Conservation Status:

Their conservation status depends on the species. According to the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, five species are listed as Near Threatened, two species are listed as Vulnerable, nine species are listed as Least Concern, and five species are listed as Data Deficient.

Sources: San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.

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