Nine-banded Armadillo

Dasypus novemcinctus mexicanus Peters



 Color photo by Robert M. Timm.
Copyright 1999.   All rights reserved.

Description:   The nine-banded armadillo is a highly specialized mammal. It can be distinguished from other Kansas mammals by: 1) oval brownish body and long tapering tail which are protected with an armor of bony dermal plates covered by a tough epidermis or skin; the thick immovable shields on the front and hind parts are connected by nine moveable jointed plates that are band-shaped, and 2) large naked ears that are prominent on the slender head, which is also well armoured. Areas on the body without bony plates where sparse yellowish white hair occurs are the underparts, ears, base of tail, neck, and legs. The peg-like teeth (about 32; range 28-36) are undifferentiated and, because they are absent in the front of the jaws, are presumed to be premolars and molars. On the front feet, the middle two (of four) claws are especially long, heavy, and sharp, while on the hind foot there are five claws, of which the three middle ones are long and stout, all being highly specialized for digging. There is no seasonal variation or sexual dimorphism.

Size:   Adults may attain the following dimensions: total length 693-763 mm; tail 254-373 mm; hind foot 65-90 mm; ear 32-40 mm; weight 3.2-4.5 kilograms.

Range and Habitat:   Nine-banded armadillos are now abundant in southern Kansas and breed in the southern tier of counties. They are seen occasionally in the northern half of the State. They are extending their range northward, and are found as far north as southern Nebraska. The northernmost breeding populations are in southern Kansas. The species is most commonly found among trees where it searches for food among the leaves and debris on the forest floor. Where they are found in abundance, they sometimes cause damage to flower beds and gardens as they forage for beetle larvae.

Reproduction:   Breeding occurs in July or August, but there is no development of the embryos for about 100 days. When cell division begins, one individual cell divides once to form two cells which separate and these two cells divide to form four genetically identical cells. Each of these separate cells then begins to divide to form four embryos, each embryo of necessity begin of the same sex. Gestation is 120 days and between February and April four relatively large young (identical quadruplets) are born underground in a nest of grass and dry leaves. The newborn are without armour and the shell is not fully formed until they are adults. The eyes are open at birth and the young are capable of moving about. After two months they are weaned but continue to forage with the female until she breeds later in the summer. Sexual maturity is attained at about one year of age.

Habits:   The nine-banded armadillo is mainly nocturnal. Most of these animals are encountered along edges of forest trails where they remain immobile and quiet until approached to within a foot or so at which time the armadillo bursts into activity, plunging into forest cover. Their rapid movement through the undergrowth is most impressive, but not as impressive as the startling effect on an observer during daylight hours as they will continue to forage. Their round scat, filled with insects and dirt as a result of their feeding behavior, is always good evidence of their presence, as are the many surface excavations, holes and subterranean tunnels. Natural shelters among rocks are also used as denning and retreat sites.

Food:   Many different kinds of food are eaten by the nine-banded armadillo, including soft invertebrates, worms, and some fruit and berries when insects are not available.

Remarks:   Lifespan of the nine-banded armadillo is approximately four years. It has few natural enemies, although some large carnivores are known to prey on it. Many armadillos are killed on highways in localities where their populations are high in number.

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