2 minute read

Armadillos: Dasypodidae

Nine-banded Armadillo (dasypus Novemcinctus): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Although named nine-banded armadillos, these brown and gray mammals have from seven to eleven bands on their backs. Nine-banded armadillos are about 25.4 inches (64.6 centimeters) long and weigh up to 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms). Tails measure 9.5 to 14.6 inches (24 to 37 centimeters) in length. They have protective armor on their tails and heads, and have visible ears and small eyes. Nine-banded armadillos have strong claws, a powerful sense of hearing, and poor vision.

The nine-banded armadillo is the only armadillo that lives in the United States. (Jeff Foott/Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Also known as common long-nosed armadillos, nine-banded armadillos use their long noses to smell ants and other prey hunted for food.

Geographic range: Nine-banded armadillos live in the United States, Mexico, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru.

Habitat: Nine-banded armadillos live in coniferous forests, and also range in grassland areas like prairies, where there are fewer trees.

Diet: These armadillos eat ants, beetles, other insects, snails, and worms. They also eat larvae (LAR-vee), the early, often worm-like forms of insects, such as a caterpillar that later changes into a butterfly. They sometimes eat fruit.

Behavior and reproduction: Nine-banded armadillos are crepuscular and nocturnal, but may also be active in the daytime during the winter. They are solitary unless breeding.

The female can give birth only once a year. She usually mates with one male, but males may mate with other females. After the male fertilizes the female's egg, it takes four months or longer before the egg is implanted (attached) in the uterus. After implantation, the female gives birth in about two months to four young.

When frightened, armadillos can jump 3 to 4 feet (0.9 to 1.2 meters) in the air. This action can scare predators like dogs, coyotes, wildcats, and bears. Cars are a threat to armadillos; a vehicle may pass over an armadillo without hurting it, but if the motion startles the armadillo, it may jump, hit the underside of the car, and die.

Nine-banded armadillos and people: The nine-banded armadillo became the Texas state mascot in 1981. In the 1930s, people ate armadillos during the Great Depression, a time of high unemployment. People called armadillos "Hoover hogs" and "Texas turkeys." The first name referred to President Herbert Hoover, who people blamed for the Depression. Some people still eat armadillo—barbecuing the meat or cooking armadillo chili. Texans began holding armadillo races during the 1970s. Researchers also study the armadillo to develop treatments for leprosy.

Conservation status: Nine-banded armadillos are not threatened. ∎

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