The claws on the front feet of this critter leave little doubt it is
well adapted for digging.
Nine-banded Armadillos live in my world -- or do I live in their world? Neither of us is native to the Ozarks, though armadillos have inhabited the Earth much longer than humans.
The Nine-banded Armadillo's ancestors lived quite comfortably in South America until around three million years ago when the formation of the Isthmus of Panama allowed them to start moving north. They've been heading north ever since. Armadillos were first recorded in south Texas in the early nineteenth century. Many researchers thought the dillers' northward migration would be severely limited by cold weather. Armadillos have a slow metobolic rate, little fat and lack the ability to regulate their body temperatures as well as most mammals. However, Nine-banded Armadillos proved to be much more adaptable than early researchers thought. By 1995 the species had become well-established in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, and had been sighted as far afield as Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina. A decade later, the armadillo had become established in all of those areas and continued its migration, being sighted as far north as southern Nebraska, southern Illinois, and southern Indiana. (There is also ample evidence humans introduced armadillos into several southern states where they thrived.) (Source: Wikipedia)
That I was able to take these photos during the middle of the afternoon, illustrates one of the Nine-banded Armadillos' adaptations to colder temperatures. They are normally nocturnal, but when the weather is cold, dillers remain in their underground burrows all night and come out to forage during the warmer parts of the day.
The bands on the Nine-banded Armadillo's carapace
are the basis for its common name, but it can actually have between
7 and 11 bands. I only count eight bands on this individual.
Armadillos are primarily insectivores. They dig up and eat a wide variety of bugs, larvae, grubs, etc. However, stomach content analysis has show dillers will eat pretty much any small critter that doesn't get out of their way, including small reptiles, amphibians and birds. Their digging behavior often makes armadillos unpopular among gardeners and those dedicated to having beautiful lawns. I have no interest in maintaining a convention lawn, but do find it exasperating when a diller "tills" a well-mulched vegetable garden bed.
A previous post shows an armadillo litter out foraging. (Armadillo litters are always identical quadruplets.) Other sources of more information than you ever really wanted to know about these unique critters include Mammals of Texas, Biogeography of the Nine-Banded Armadillo and Armadillo Fact File.
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