Sunday, January 16, 2011

Nine-Banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)

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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Lana Gramlich said...

Lovely shots! Down here they're considered pests, but I have no problem with them (perhaps because they haven't excavated my yard...yet.)

Pat - Arkansas said...

I discovered an armadillo hole, a big one, in my yard last summer. There was evidence that it, or they, had been foraging for grubs as there were a number of sharp edged excavations within a 4-6 foot radius of the hole. Guess they were successful in their quest. I filled the main hole with used (sifted) cat litter. I guess they went on to easier diggings since I've seen no further activity.

Excellent photos, Marvin.

Ellen Rathbone said...

Amazingly weird animals. We had one at the zoo where I used to work - named Sherman. The variety of life on this planet never ceases to amaze.

Shelly Cox said...

I love these little guys. Around here people call them Possum' on the Half-Shell. I think they are adorable and interesting in their behavior and reproduction. There have been more and more sightings in NW Missouri these past few years. Will they make NW Missouri their new home range? I say...."where there is a will there is a way"

Rambling Woods said...

Well...I know I won't be seeing any of these in my NY yard...what a neat critter.....Michelle

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I find these creatures interesting. I wouldn't want one digging up my garden though. A friend of mine found a roadkill armadillo in Southern Illinois. That is pretty far north. I have always wondered if there are more in that area.

Karen said...

A handsome critter in it's own right. Great shots.

Marvin said...

Lana: Around here armadillos are pretty much considered pests too, but I consider them tolerable pests.

Pat: Yes, it sounds as if you had an armadillo that was thinking about setting up housekeeping in your yard and it's probably best for all concerned that you discouraged that undertaking.

Ellen: I don't know why the armadillo was named Sherman, but it seems an apt name. They are armored and usually pay little head to whatever gets in their way -- sort of like a Sherman tank.

Shelly: I think you can count on having armadillos for neighbors.

Michelle: You're probably safe from an armadillo invasion, but I have seen maps that project armadillo expansion as far north as southern Canada. I really don't see how they could deal with long term snow cover, though.

Lisa: Based upon the photos I've seen of your beautiful yard and garden, I don't think you and armadillos would make good neighbors.

Karen: Thanks. Handsome, true, but they do have a strong and none to pleasant (to humans) odor.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Interesting. When I moved to south Texas in the 70's they were already very established. The town I lived in even had an annual armadillo festival that featured armadillo races.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update on the bird kills..I really think that the birds pay too high a price for our celebration. I have seen what happens here on the pond when the fireworks go off and how much panic there is.. Funny as I have never like them much not even as a child...Michelle

Unknown said...

How lucky that you get to see one of these in the wild - and have these beautiful photos to prove it!

Marvin said...

Yogi: I grew up on the Texas coast, but really don't remember armadillos except from vacation trips inland. Perhaps the sand on the coast wasn't suitable habitat.

Michelle: Fireworks have long seemed like a waste of money to me. I certainly agree that fireworks displays should be prohibited in situations where they endanger wildlife.

Nicole: Despite the fact armadillos are widespread in the southern US, many people only get an opportunity to see them as roadkill.

KaHolly said...

So glad you wrote this post when you did! I just ret'd from a weeklong camping trip and there were armadillos everywhere, even foraging through my site! I learned a lot today, thank you. If I post about my trip, I'll definitely link back to this post. ~karen