Contrary to popular belief, the nine-banded armadillo CANNOT roll itself into a ball to
escape predators!! Only one of the twenty-odd varieties of armadillos -- the three-banded
armadillo (Tolypeutes tricinctus ) -- is able to roll up. The other types are
covered with too many bony plates to allow them to curl up. Other armadillos have to rely
on their armored shells for defense while they scuttle away through thick, thorny brush or
dig themselves a hole to hide in.
Armadillos always give birth to four identical young -- the only mammal known to do so.
All four young develop from the same egg -- and they even share the same placenta!
Armadillos are used in leprosy research because their body temperatures are low enough
for them to contract the most virulent form of the disease.
Some female armadillos being used for research have given birth to young long after they
were captured -- up to two years afterwards, in some cases! These "virgin
births" are a result of the female's ability to delay implantation of the fertilized
egg during times of stress. This reproductive tactic is one reason why the 'dillos are so
good at colonizing new areas (such as the United States!).
Armadillos like to swim, and they are very good at it. They have a strong dog paddle,
and can even go quite a distance underwater, walking along the bottom of streams and
ponds. When they need to float, they gulp air into their intestines to make them more
Armadillo teeth have no enamel (the hard outer covering of the tooth). They also have
very few teeth -- just several peg-like molars. Since they primarily eat insects, they
don't have to do a lot of heavy chewing, making big, strong teeth a waste of energy to
Like most insect eating mammals, armadillos have a very long, sticky tongue to slurp up
bugs as quickly as possible. They also are equipped with strong claws to tear open ant
Armadillos have a very low metabolic rate, which means they don't waste a lot of energy
producing heat. This also means that they are not good at living in cold areas, because
they can't keep warm very well! They do not have any fat reserves, so they must forage for
food on a daily basis. Just a few cold days in a row can be deadly to a 'dillo.
One way they conserve energy is through reta mirabila (Latin for "miraculous
net")-- a system of veins and arteries in their legs. Hot blood going out through
arteries is cooled by cold blood coming in through veins, and vice versa. This means that
not much heat actually goes out into the legs, keeping it in the body. This also means
they will get frostbitten very easily, since they have no way to warm their extremities
through blood flow.
Baby armadillos have soft shells, like human fingernails. They get harder as the animal
grows, depositing bone under the skin to make a solid shell.
According to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, it is illegal to own an
armadillo in the state of Maine. Hawaii has strict regulations against the import of any
foreign animal, including armadillos. The state of Montana classifies them as livestock,
and regulates their import accordingly.