Nine-Banded Armadillo


Scientific Name

Dasypus novemcinctus

Species Survival Plan



Prefer limestone outcroppings with dense shade


Coyote, other small mammals and birds of prey


Insects and other invertebrates

Originally Native To

South-central and southeastern U.S. to Peru and Uruguay


18-40 inches including tail, which can be up to 70 percent of their overall length


8 - 17 lb.


Cat-sized, armored, insect-eating mammal with long, pointed nose and short legs

Gestation Period

120 days


4 pups

Birth Season



Wild 12 - 15 years
Captivity 20 years

Social Behavior

Solitary except female with young


About Nine-Banded Armadillo

There are 20 types of armadillos in existence, but only the nine-banded armadillo is found in the United States, where it first appeared about one million years ago. The range of nine-banded armadillos has continued to expand northward, as it has been spotted as far north as Illinois and Nebraska. It is the only armadillo increasing in numbers.

Despite their name, nine-banded armadillos can have 7-11 bands on their armor. A common misconception is that nine-banded armadillos can roll up into spherical balls. In reality, only two species of armadillos (both three-banded) can roll up completely.

The Spanish meaning of the word armadillo is “little armored one.” This term refers to the bony, armor-like plates covering the animal’s head, legs, and tail. The armadillo is the only mammal possessing this unique defense mechanism.

Members of this genus are characterized by a long, pointed nose and relatively short legs. Four toes are present on the front feet, five toes on the hind feet – all with well-developed claws. Because they walk on the tips of their feet, they tend to leave three-toed tracks that resemble bird footprints.

They are closely related to sloths and anteaters with a long snout and small eyes that provide poor eyesight. Their sense of smell is used in locating ants, beetles, termites, and other diet choices.

Strong claws and leg muscles aid in digging, while sticky tongues quickly gather the ants and termites. In fact, armadillos will eat nearly 500 different foods, most of which are invertebrates.

A lesser part of their diet is comprised of small reptiles and amphibians, as well as eggs of mammals, reptiles, and birds. Less than 10 percent of their diet is comprised of fruit, seeds, fungi, and assorted plant matter.

They hunt during early morning and late evening, but can found sleeping up to 16 hours per day. An armadillo’s teeth are small, peg-like, and do not possess enamel.

A memorable fact about armadillos is they always give birth to four identical young, a result of the single egg always dividing twice during early development. At birth, the carapace of the offspring has not yet hardened and the unprotected young are extremely vulnerable to predation.

Females can delay the implantation of the fertilized egg for up to two years when they are stressed. Although breeding occurs in July, the embryo remains in a dormant state until November and the pups are born in March.

They are good swimmers, but are also known to walk on the bottom of waterways and can hold their breath for up to six minutes when necessary. Armadillos live in burrows located in limestone formations with dense, shady cover. They prefer warm, wet climates and live in forested or grassland habitats.

Nine-banded armadillos have a tendency to jump straight up into the air when they are startled, which often leads to their demise on highways. They are small enough that cars can pass right over them, but they leap up and hit the undercarriage of vehicles.

The armadillo is the state small mammal of Texas. As a small native species, the nine-banded armadillo could potentially be seen anywhere at Fossil Rim.


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