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Physical Appearance

Armadillos appear to be a conglomeration of other animal parts—the shell of a turtle, the ears of an aardvark, the feet of a lizard, the face of a pig, and the tail of a dinosaur. However, the patches and bands of coarse bristles and hairs on their bodies reveal them to be true mammals.

Extinct species of armadillo grew to enormous sizes and their bony shells were used as roofs and tombs by early South American Indians. Surviving species are nowhere near that large, ranging in size from the 99–132 lb (45–60 kg) giant armadillo to the 2.8–3.5 oz (80–100 g) lesser fairy armadillo. The familiar common long-nosed armadillo weighs in at 6–10 lb (2.7–4.5 kg).

The most obvious and unusual feature of armadillos is their bony skin armor, found in no other living mammal. Bands of a double-layered covering of horn and bone develop from the skin and cover most of the upper surfaces and sides of the body. These bony bands or plates are connected by flexible skin. The top of the head is capped with a bony shield and the tail is usually encased with bony rings or plates. Their underside is covered only with soft, hairy skin. Armadillos have a flattened and elongated head with a long, extendable tongue. Set in their jaws are numerous small, peglike A nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas. Photograph by Robert J. Huffman. Field Mark Publications. Reproduced by permission. teeth. The teeth are not covered by enamel and grow continuously. Their hind limbs have five clawed toes while the powerful forelimbs end in three, four, or five curved digging claws.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Anticolonialism in Southeast Asia - Categories And Features Of Anticolonialism to Ascorbic acidArmadillos - Distribution And Habitat, Physical Appearance, Feeding And Defense, Reproduction