Like giving birth to armadillos
What do armadillos look like?
Armadillos, like anteaters and sloths, belong to a very old group of animals, namely to the subordinate group of animals.
Their thoracic and lumbar vertebrae have additional joints that other mammals lack - hence the strange name.
Armadillos have a stocky body, short legs, and a tail. The armor made of horn and bone plates, which are connected by skin folds, is typical. At the front and back of the torso, the plates are often fused together to form shields, in the middle of the body they form belt-like rings, so that the animals are very mobile.
This typical feature can be found in the Spanish name of these animals: Because in Spanish, armadillos are called "Armadillos", which means "the little armored ones".
The top of the tapered head is also covered with plates. The ears stick out upwards, the eyes are small.
The snout is of different lengths, depending on the species. Armadillos have strong claws on their legs for digging, the tail is surrounded by rings of bones.
Depending on the species, armadillos are slightly to densely hairy on the ventral side.
On the other hand, on the upper side of the body, i.e. on the shell, most armadillos have no hair - only the bristle armadillos have short, bristle-like hair on the shell.
Armadillos vary in size: the girdle is only 15 centimeters long and weighs only 100 grams, the giant armadillos measures up to 1 meter and weighs up to 60 kilograms.
The spherical armadillo is 35 to 45 centimeters long and weighs up to 1.6 kilograms, the brown bristle armadillo is up to 40 centimeters long and weighs up to 2 kilograms.
Where do armadillos live?
Armadillos are found exclusively in South America, Central America, and southern North America.
Armadillos live predominantly in savannas, steppes and semi-deserts - i.e. in rather dry habitats. They are pure ground dwellers.
What types of armadillos are there?
There are eight different genera of armadillos with 20 different species.
Well-known species are the nine-banded armadillo, the six-banded armadillo, the dwarf armadillo, the brown-bristle armadillo, the giant armadillo, the spherical armadillos, the bare-tailed armadillos and the belt mole - they are the smallest representatives of the armadillos.
How old do armadillos get?
Life expectancy varies depending on the species. In the wild, many armadillos can live to be 12 to 18 years old. Ball armadillos live up to 20 years, brown-bristle armadillos up to 25 years. In captivity, armadillos can live for up to 30 years.
How do armadillos live?
All armadillos are solitary animals and mostly active at night. Only when it gets dark do they go looking for food. They catch insects and other small invertebrates with their long, sticky tongues. Larger armadillo species sometimes also eat lizards and mice, and rarely plants.
Armadillos cannot see well, but they have an excellent sense of smell: they use their noses to detect animals that are 20 centimeters deep in the ground.
They dig up their prey with the help of their strong claws. Giant armadillos can even break open termite structures with their claws that are up to 15 centimeters long.
Armadillos look a bit clumsy, but they are surprisingly nimble.
They don't stop at water either: They are good swimmers. So that they don't drown because of their heavy armor, they swallow air and store it in their stomach and intestines. Sometimes armadillos cross streams by walking on the bottom.
Armadillos spend the day sleeping in burrows.
Friends and enemies of armadillos
Armadillos don't have very many enemies because their shell is a great shield. Only jaguars manage to crack the armadillos' armor.
Most armadillos hunch up when in danger. The spherical armadillo, for example, curls up into a perfect ball when attacked.
The legs are hidden inside the sphere. The armor plates of the head and tail form the closure of the ball.
The brown bristle armadillo has a slightly different defense strategy:
It presses itself firmly to the ground and digs into the earth. It can hold its breath for up to six minutes - usually the danger is then over. This ability to hold their breath for long periods of time also helps the animals dig for food.
Humans are also a danger to armadillos: Because their meat tastes good, they are hunted in some regions of South America.
How do armadillos reproduce?
Depending on the species, the gestation period for armadillos can last up to four months. The young are born in an underground cave and suckled by their mother. The skin of the baby armadillos is soft and leathery at first, but only after a few weeks does it turn into a hard shell.
The number of young varies depending on the species: spherical armadillos give birth to only one young. In brown-bristle armadillos, the females usually give birth to two, whereas in nine-banded armadillos, it has four young.
How do armadillos communicate?
Armadillos hardly make any sounds. When they curl up and exhale in danger, some let out a hissing sound.
What do armadillos eat?
Armadillos eat all kinds of insects and insect larvae.
They especially like ants and termites.
Larger armadillo species also eat small vertebrates such as mice and lizards.
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