15 Facts About Armadillos [Life Cycle, Eating Habits and More]

Armadillo is a Spanish word meaning “little armored one”, basically referring to the bony plates covering the back, head, legs and tail of most of these creatures. They belong to the order Cingulata and are the only living mammals known to wear such shells.

All the different species of Armadillo mostly live in Latin America, except for the nine-banded Armadillo, extending its habitat and including the United States into its range.

They are closely related to anteaters and sloths and generally possess a pointy or ‘shovel-shaped snout’ and small eyes with very poor vision. Their size and color vary greatly, from the pink fairy Armadillo being 6 inch long to the 5 foot long dark-brown Giant Armadillo.

Of all the distinct species, only the three-banded Armadillo can encase itself in its shell by curling his head and back feet. These creatures are therefore highly unique, portraying distinctive and some extraordinary characteristics that no other mammals are known to show.

Let’s explore and discover the various trends of Armadillo’s lifestyle, and examine some of the fascinating and interesting facts regarding these creatures.

17 Interesting Facts About Armadillos

This article intends to present the most fascinating, interesting, and informative knowledge relating to the Armadillo’s livelihood, nature, characteristics, eating habits, lifespan, and its difference with that of Aardvark, in the form of 15 distinctive facts.

1. What do Armadillos Eat?

Being Omnivores, their diet includes both plants and meats, where 90% of it consists of insects and larvae. Their diet primarily consists of insects like termites, beetles, cockroaches, etc.

They are known to feed on small reptiles and amphibians, and their eggs in colder weather. A very small quantity of plant matter is also found in the diet of Armadillos.

Similar to their variations in size and color, the feeding habits of Armadillos tend to vary greatly too!

The dietary preferences of the Southern Long-nosed Armadillo generally include crickets, ants, termites, spiders, small vertebrates, vegetation and carrion, while that of the Nine-banded Armadillo includes insects like termites, ants, earthworms, grasshoppers, centipedes, small reptiles, bird eggs, small mammals, carrions, and plant matter.

What time do Armadillos feed?

Armadillos usually tend to forage in the evenings during hot summers since they have very little hair to help them regulate their body temperature.

However, they also show trends of becoming active in the middle of the day during the cold wintry seasons. The majority of the Armadillo species are crepuscular, nocturnal or both, and therefore vary largely.

For example, the nine-banded Armadillos can be seen active on some cloudy days, as it is nocturnal and crepuscular, while the six-banded Armadillos are diurnal.

2. Where do Armadillos live?

The natural territory of Armadillos predominantly includes temperate and warm habitats that consist of rainforests, grasslands, semi-deserts and deserts.

They build their burrows in moist soil near the creeks and streams and live and feed around it. The low metabolic rate and lack of fat stores of Armadillos make cold their enemy, and therefore intemperate or extreme weather can wipe out their whole populations.

3. Are Armadillos Bulletproof?

No! Despite some reports of bullets ricocheting off Armadillos, and the fact that their hard shell is no doubt strong enough to protect them from dangers, they are not fully bulletproof creatures.

Their shells primarily protect them from thorny shrubs, under which it seldom takes shelter in order to hide from its predator, but that doesn’t necessarily make the Armadillo bulletproof and that the shell can be broken by large animals or strongly hit by a bullet shot.

Nevertheless, Armadillo shells inspired the development of materials that could offer better body armor for humans.

What is an Armadillo Shell made of?

An Armadillo shell is primarily made up of a composition of hard mineral tiles that are basically connected by the soft non-mineralized collagen fibers or Sharpey’s fibers.

The bony armor or the osteoderm is made of a top-level of keratin and beneath this layer, there are hexagonal or triangular tiles made up of bone.

Sharpey’s fibers connect the different tiles of the shell, giving the shells properties of hard and soft tissue. The shells of Armadillos are usually made of three sections, viz. the pectoral shield, the banded shield, and the pelvic shield.

4. How long do Armadillos Live?

The lifespan of Armadillos totally depends on their specific species and thus varies greatly somewhere between 4-30 years on average.

For instance, the Nine-banded Armadillos can survive for around 12-15 on average, while Pink fairy Armadillos can only survive for around 5-10 years on average. However, Armadillos can live for a longer period in captivity than in the wild.

5. Do Armadillos lay Eggs?

No, Armadillos do not lay eggs since they are mammals and like any other mammals, they are supposed to give birth to their live young ones.

A female Armadillo goes through a gestation period of two to five months and then gives birth to 1-12 young Armadillo Pups in a burrow that can be up to 15 feet wide.

The Nine-banded Armadillos generally have four identical pups in every litter, and the Seven-banded Armadillo has 8-15 pups at a time.

6. Do Armadillos Play Dead?

Yes, this is an extremely unique technique exhibited by the Nine-banded Armadillos generally at a time when they are threatened by their predators or any dangers.

Armadillos react in a number of ways when they encounter a threat and their reactions largely depend on their diverse species. Sometimes their armor protects them from predators, but usually, they tend to retreat towards their burrows.

Tolypeutes can roll into a ball in order to save themselves from the threats, while Nine-banded Armadillos can leap vertically into the air and “play dead”, a trick to remain perfectly still, as a response towards its predator.

7. What Eats Armadillos?

There are numerous creatures that tend to kill and feed on Armadillos. These include some wild predators along with other creatures such as Coyotes, Dogs, Black Bears, Bobcats, Cougars, Foxes, Jaguars, Wolves, and Raccoons.

Hawks, Owls and Feral Pigs also prey on Armadillos, especially young pups.

In some places, especially in South America, humans tend to feed on Armadillos as a substitute for pork. Despite being vulnerable to a great number of challenges, their armor shells and their extraordinary capabilities assist them with their struggles. T

hey are known to be excellent jumpers and runners enabling them to run quickly on sensing threats. The Nine-banded Armadillos can even ‘walk’ and ‘float’ across the water by sucking in air and making their body buoyant!

8. Where do Armadillos Sleep?

Armadillos dig underground burrows, and that’s exactly where they usually sleep!

Being solitary and to some extent nocturnal in nature, these creatures tend to spend most of the daytime sleeping.

According to National Geographic, they spend most of the time sleeping, up to 16 hours each day, in their burrows. Utilizing their superb burrowing capabilities, they can construct a burrow that can extend around 4-24 feet wide and 5 feet deep.

9. What time do Armadillos come out?

Armadillos usually tend to come out and carry out their foraging during the dawn, dusk or night times.

However, their preferred time changes during the winter season, when they are seldom observed foraging during the warmer part of the day. They can also be seen and spotted in the daytime during the monsoons when worms come out.

When are Armadillos most Active?

Since most of the species of Armadillos show their inclination towards being nocturnal animals, they are most active during dawn and dusk. They generally avoid extreme climatic conditions and are therefore usually seen during the warmer part of the day in the wintry months.

10. How do Armadillos give Birth?

Being mammalian creatures, Armadillos give birth to their pups, in the same manner, any other mammal reproduces, that is, they tend to give birth to live babies by reproducing sexually instead of laying eggs.

Armadillo babies develop from the same fertilized egg inside the female Armadillo after the Armadillos mate, and then it gives birth to their live offspring.

A female Armadillo gives birth to up to 12 babies, primarily depending upon their species, but usually produces between 1-3 babies. Moreover, Nine-banded Armadillos give birth to four identical children most of the time, since they develop from the same egg.

When do Armadillos have Babies?

Majority of the Armadillo species, the breeding season lies between April and June. The gestation period of Armadillos varies widely depending upon their species and ranges from 60 days in large hairy Armadillos to 4-5 months in giant Armadillos and Nine-banded Armadillos.

Female Armadillos give birth to their young Pups once the gestation period is over. Some species of Armadillos can pause the implantation of embryos for around four months to two years, resulting in delayed pregnancy.

11. Why do Armadillos dig holes?

Armadillos dig underground holes for a variety of reasons including, to search for food supplements, to protect themselves from harsh and extreme weather conditions, to raise their young ones, to stay safe and away from their predators, and last but not the least as a place to sleep.

Armadillos feed on numerous insects such as termites, worms, grubs, and other underground creatures. Therefore, they dig shallow holes about 1-3 inches deep and 3-6 inches wide in the ground to locate and search for their food.

Their holes help them to stay protected and hidden from their predators, and at the same time helps them to stay protected from the extreme climatic conditions.

Armadillos dig huge burrows to use them as their shelter and to give birth and raise their pups, which can measure up to 15 ft deep and 15 ft long.

Being solitary and nocturnal creatures, Armadillos tend to sleep a maximum of about 16 hours a day, and thus utilize their holes to carry out their sleeping. 

12. How long can an Armadillo Hold its Breath?

A Nine-banded Armadillo can usually hold its breath for up to 4-6 minutes at a time!

Crossing small streams or ponds is not a big problem for Armadillos, since they are extremely talented and skilled to perform these tasks.

Armadillos are great swimmers, and this factor genuinely facilitates and equips them with the ability to move across the water. There are two methods utilized by Armadillos to cross water bodies.

Firstly, they can inflate their stomach and intestine with air and ‘float’ across the water by making their body buoyant, and secondly, they can hold their breath and ‘walk’ along the bottom of the rivers or ponds in order to cross them.

13. What do Armadillos do When they are Scared?

When Armadillos are scared, they generally jump vertically about three to four feet in order to startle and scare off their predators in the wild or roll themselves into a ball to protect their weaker body parts.

However, these capabilities are solely dependent on their distinctive species. The Three-banded Armadillo is the only species of the 21 distinct Armadillos that can roll itself into a ball and encase itself inside its shell as a method of defense.

The Nine-banded Armadillos are well-known for their vertical leap of about 3-4 feet in the air. Usually, at first the Armadillos ‘play dead’ to scrutinize their predators, then react accordingly and ultimately resort to hiding or running.

14. How Fast can Armadillos Run?

Armadillos can run at a speed of 30 miles per hour on average, in spite of their heavily armored shells.

Majority of the Armadillos species resort to running quickly in order to hide from their approaching predators and protect themselves.

The most common amongst them, the Nine-banded Armadillos generally choose to run away from their predators at a speed of approximately 30 mph.

The feet of Armadillos are quite strong that enables them to run fast and easily protect themselves against their natural predators. However, the Three-banded Armadillo cannot run that fast and instead utilizes its shell by rolling into a ball.

15. Armadillo Vs Aardvark

The similar characteristics and appearance of both the Armadillos and Aardvarks often tend to confuse people since both these creatures are excellent diggers, primarily feeding on insects, and are nocturnal animals sharing many physical characteristics.

However, they tend to be more different from each other than they are similar as both the mammals are of different families, orders and species.

The Aardvark is a pig-like creature that belongs to the order Tubulidentata and is native to Africa, whereas Armadillos are more closely related to anteaters and sloths, belonging to the order Cingulata and native to America.

The most important distinction between the two is that while Armadillos are naturally provided with a hard outer shell that protects them from their predators and dangers, Aardvarks are not pre-equipped with such shells.

Their dietary habits differ too, since Aardvarks are generally insectivores, but Armadillos also include fruits and other food items in their diet.

Final Comments:

It is evident from the above details that Armadillos are one of a kind and have some extraordinary characteristics varying across different species. From the very beginning of the article, it became apparent that these creatures are totally unique in their own ways.

They include a wide range of food items into their diet, where they tend to prefer insects like ants and worms more than veggies and live for a pretty long period of time. Their heavy shells work as a protective shield against dangers and predators and are therefore very important to them.

Their extraordinary capabilities to run, sleep for 16 hrs, dig holes, hold breath, and jump are extensively explored in this article. The birth of identical quadruplets of the Nine-banded Armadillos is a fascinating fact that is extensively investigated, researched and debated.