Armadillo Myths: The Truth Behind the Shell!

How Well do You Know Armadillos?

Armadillos, as one of the more odd-looking animals in the United States, are frequently the subject of many different myths and much conjecture. But what is fact, and what is fiction? Read below to learn just how much you really know about these nine-banded tank-like creatures.

Myth 1: Armadillos have armor made of scales.

  • While Armadillos do have protective natural armor, their plating is not made primarily from keratin like that of pangolins and most scaled reptiles. Instead, Armadillos have armor made of bone, the plates of which attach to their spine.

Myth 2: Armadillos all have leprosy.

  • While it's true that armadillos can carry the bacterium that causes leprosy (Mycobacterium leprae), the risk of contracting the disease from an armadillo is extremely low. Human cases of leprosy linked to armadillo contact are rare and typically occur in areas where armadillos are common. Proper hygiene and avoidance of direct contact with armadillos can further reduce the risk.

Myth 3: Armadillos are always quadruplets.

  • This one is true! Most of the time at least. During reproduction, Armadillos will fertilize only a single egg. This egg splits into four during gestation, and the resulting quadruplets are born in the spring.

Myth 4: Armadillos dig holes to bury themselves.

  • The myth here states that Armadillos will dig to bury themselves in order to hide from predators. However, armadillos are prolific burrowers. If you spot one digging, it's likely just expanding one of its existing burrows or starting work on a new one. After all, it's much easier to escape down an existing burrow then to dig an entirely new hole on the spot.

Myth 5: Armadillos can hold their breath for several minutes.

  • Another surprisingly true fact about Armadillos! This capability helps Armadillos to dig their extensive burrows, as their snout may be covered in dirt for some time. Armadillos can, in fact, hold their breath for up to six minutes. They use this ability not only to dig deeper burrows, but to traverse rivers by walking along the bottom.

Myth 6: Armadillos are blind.

  • While they are nocturnal and spend a good amount of time digging, Armadillos are not blind. Their eyesight is poorer and more limited than many other mammals, but they compensate for this with their excellent senses of smell and hearing. For an animal that is active at night, their sight is just fine.

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