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Armadillos: Dasypodidae

Physical Characteristics

The smallest armadillo is the pink fairy armadillo, which is 5 to 6 inches (12.7 to 15.2 centimeters) long and weighs 4.2 ounces (120 grams). The largest family member is the giant armadillo, which is 4.9 feet (1.5 meters) long and weighs 66 pounds (30 kilograms).

"Armadillo" is Spanish for "little armored one." The armadillo's protective armor is the turtle-like shell, or carapace, made up of round, bony plates. Between the hard plates on the armadillo are bands of softer skin. Hair grows between the plates. Shell colors include brown, gray, and yellow. Body color is usually gray or brown. Hair is usually white and pale yellow. The pink fairy armadillo has a pink shell and white hair.

Armadillos have bony plates on their backs. Some have plates on their heads, and plates cover some armadillos' tails. The shell protects the armadillo from predators, animals that hunt and kill armadillos for food.

The arrangement of plates and bands in the Dasypodidae family varies within subgroups called genera (JEN-uh-rah) and species. The family is divided into eight genera. A genus (JEE-nus), the singular of genera, is a group that shares similar characteristics. For example, members of the genus Tolypeutes are three-banded armadillos.

Armadillos have tiny eyes and poor eyesight. Some species have short snouts, or noses, while others have long, tube-shaped snouts. Armadillos have long tails and short limbs. They use claws on their limbs to dig for food and to burrow, digging a hole or tunnel for sleeping or hiding from predators.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsArmadillos: Dasypodidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Armadillos And People, Conservation Status, Nine-banded Armadillo (dasypus Novemcinctus): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET