18 March, 2011

Armadillos....The Little Armoured Animals

Can you imagine an animal covered in armour from head to toe, like a great warrior? If not then you must meet the amazing armadillo. The 'armadillo' is a Spanish word meaning  'little armoured animal'. Thus the very name clarifies its most important characteristic.
Armadillos are round and short legged creatures about the size of a small dog. 

They have strong claws, and their bodies are covered with armour. This armour is made of hard plates like scales connected by stretchable bands. If they did not have the ability to stretch, the armadillo would have great difficulty moving around.
The armour helps protect the armadillo from its enemies. But its main job is to protect the armadillo from being cut and scratched by thorns and cactuses abundant in its habitat.
A group of armadillo in their natural habitat
Central and South America are home to many kinds of armadillo. There you'll find the pichi armadillo, Burmeister;s armadillo, and the pink fairy armadillo. you'll also find the giant armadillo, which is nearly 1.5 metres long. One species, the nine-banded armadillo, is found in Texas and several other U.S. States.

Armadillos can't see very well and are almost toothless. They hunt mostly at night and eat insects and worms, soft roots and fruits, and occasionally dead animals.
When enemies appear, the armadillo usually runs away into the tough undergrowth, where its predators can't follow. Sometimes the armadillo will jump straight into the air to scare its enemies. 
As a last resort it will roll itself up into a hard ball.

You may not believe it, but armadillos are very good swimmers. They stay afloat by swallowing a lot of air. In fact, under all that armour, armadillos are full of surprises!

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