Armadillos-The Armored One
Armadillos are small mammals that are primarily found in South and North America. Nearly 20 species of Armadillos exist today. Out of the 20 species only one species is found in North America and that is nine banded Armadillos. All the species of Armadillos are characterized by a special outer covering on their skin called as scutes. They are probably the only living mammal to have such a shell. By nature a quite animal, Armadillos adapts themselves to a wide variety of climate. During the warm weather they come out in the night to feed themselves. During winters or cold weather they prefer to do their feeding during the day time. Basically an insectivore, Armadillos feed on a wide variety of food source.
Armadillo’s armor features
“Armadillos” come from a Spanish word which means the armored one. This is because of the protective shell that covers most of the body of the armadillo. This shell is made of bones and overlaps one another in the form of bands. Some armadillos are identified by the number of bands on their body like the three banded armadillo or the nine banded armadillo.
These bands cover the top portion of the armadillo’s body like the head, shoulders, and hips and at times tails. The lower part of the body is not covered by this shell and has mainly skin and fur. The bands of the outer covering are linked with each other through skin which is quite flexible and can be contracted or expanded upon will. This is helpful for the three banded armadillo as it can roll itself like a ball when it senses danger. This flexibility also helps the nine banded armadillo to inflate it while swimming.
Other prominent features of armadillos include a pointy nose, small eyes and small legs. The eyesight of armadillos is weak and it relies on its sense of smell to find food and sense danger. Though the legs of armadillos are small they can move about very quickly.
Protection offered by the armor
The shell of the armadillos helps it in many ways. In case of three banded armadillos it helps him to encase its whole body inside the shell. It forms like a ball which confuses predators. Not all armadillos are able to use their shell in this way. The greater number of bands comes in their way of rolling themselves up.
Other species of armadillos generally escape from predators from running away from them. They would generally try to hide themselves in thorny bushes. The shell of the armadillo then protects it from the piercing bushes.
Some armadillos would dig a burrow for themselves when they encounter danger in the form of predators. They would lodge themselves inside the burrow. This way their stomach is protected from the claws of the predator and only the armor is seen through the burrow. The predator then finds it difficult to get through them through the armor.
The protection offered by the armor of the armadillos is probably one of the many reasons why the population of this mammal is growing and spreading across central and North America.
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