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Dasypus novemcinctus [das' ih puhs noh vem' sink tuhs]
The nine-banded armadillo has a gray to brownish-gray body that is 15-17 inches long. Its tail is about 14-16 inches long. It has a small, pointed head with a long, pinkish snout; peg-like teeth; and large, pointed ears. The legs are short, with 4 toes per forefoot and 5 toes per hindfoot. All digits have strong claws, and the middle claws are largest of all.
As its common name suggests, this species typically has 9 visible transverse bands, but this number may vary from 8 to 11. Each band is separated by a thin epidermal layer and hair. The head is partially covered in scales, but the ears lack them. The underside also lacks any armored protection and is of a paler color. While nine-banded armadillos can and do curl up, they are not capable of curling into a perfect ball like other species.
Distribution and Habitat
The most widespread of all armadillos, the nine-banded's range extends from Argentina and Brazil, through Central America and Mexico, into Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri. It has also been spotted in Florida.
This species prefers forest and scrub-brush areas in tropical and temperate regions, but is also found in grasslands and savanna regions around woody areas. It has been observed near swampy or marshy regions as well, but does not commonly inhabit them. It does not inhabit arid regions, nor is it found in any regions where long periods of below freezing temperatures are common.
Although the nine-banded armadillo typically avoids areas of dense human population, it will take advantage man-made roads, bridges, railroads, and other travel routes.
Over ninety percent of the nine-banded's diet is made up of animal matter. Termites and ants are especially favored, but arachnids, earthworms, small reptiles and amphibians, and bird eggs are also taken. Fruits, seeds, and fungi make up the rest of the diet. This armadillo will occasionally eat carrion, but the animal is probably more interested in the maggots that inhabit corpses than the meat itself.
The mating season runs from June to July in the northern hemisphere, November to December in the southern hemisphere.
Implantation of the fertilized egg does not occur until about 14 weeks after mating. Gestation takes 126 days, after which 4 identical young are born. The young are born in an advanced state of development. The eyes open quickly, but the skin does not harden into its characteristic armor for a few weeks. They can take solid food fairly early, but the mother may provide milk for up to 2 to 3 months. Young of both sexes may begin breeding as early as the summer following their birth, but they may not reach full sexual maturity until the age of 2 years. Full development and maturity is attained by the age of 3 or 4 years.
Nine-banded armadillos make their homes in underground burrows that can be up 17 feet long and 7 feet deep. An indivudal may have up to 12 den sites, but the average is 4 or 5. A male and female may share these burrows during mating season, but usually a burrow is only shared by a female and her young or by young siblings.
A frightened nine-banded armadillo usually seeks a burrow, and once inside, arches its back and braces its feet so that it is difficult to remove. If a burrow is not nearby, the animal may seek dense thorny underbrush, as it is relatively protected by its tough exterior. Sometimes, when it is startled, it will jump straight up into the air before taking off running. This behavior can cause it to be hit by cars. When a car approaches, the armadillo may leap up and into the oncoming car's bumper, or on the bottom of the car when the driver tries to straddle the animal with his car's tires.
Dspite its bulky, awkward look, the nine-banded armadillo is a very able swimmer, due to its ability to hold air in the digestive tract to increase buoyancy. It is also able to walk along river bottoms.
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This page was last updated on September 15, 2018.