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What Is a Nine-Banded Armadillo?

The nine-banded armadillo is a unique mammal known for its protective armor and nocturnal habits, native to the Americas. With its ability to roll into a ball for defense, this creature sparks curiosity and wonder in the natural world. Discover how this fascinating species thrives and adapts—what secrets does its armored shell hold? Join us to unravel the mysteries of the armadillo.
Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee

The nine-banded armadillo, or Dasypus novemcinctus, is a small animal that's native to South America, but can be found as far north as Oklahoma and Kansas, and as far east as Florida, in the United States. They are usually gray, black, or brown and have a hard shell with seven to 11 separate abdominal bands, connected by thick skin. The typical nine-banded armadillo likes to dig and can be found anywhere where the soil is relatively loose and penetrable. They usually live in burrows, and also dig for the insects, grubs, and worms on which they will often feed. The nine-banded armadillo will usually share its burrow with other armadillos, and sometimes other animals of entirely different species.

The average nine-banded armadillo looks somewhat like an ant eater. They usually have long, pointy ears and a long nose. They normally weigh 8 to 17 pounds (3.6 to 7.7 kilos) and can reach lengths ranging from 29 to 33 inches (73.6 to 83.8 centimeters) from head to tail tip. The armadillo's shell is divided into sections, usually one over rump, one over the shoulders, and several bands on the abdomen and on the tail. The skin that connects these sections of carapace is usually very thick.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Nine-banded armadillos are mammals, and give birth to live young. The entire litter, however, is almost always produced from the fertilization of a single egg. There are almost always four young armadillos to a litter, and all members of the litter are genetically identical. If conditions for giving birth to young aren't optimal at the time of mating, fertilization will generally be almost automatically delayed until such time as conditions are good for pregnancy and birth.

These animals are usually most active at night, and typically rely on their keen sense of smell to find food. When threatened, the nine-banded armadillo will normally jump straight into the air to startle the predator. As a result, these armadillos are considered especially likely to be hit by cars. Their natural predators include the fox, coyote, black bear, and bobcat. Most specimens can, however, run quite fast, and they have been known to escape predators by running into a tight spot so that only their armored backs are exposed.

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