The body of the globe armadillo is covered with a shell of horny plates. In case of danger, they can roll up into a real ball and are then perfectly protected.
What does a bullet armadillo look like?
The head, body, and tail are covered with a leathery carapace. This consists of many hexagonal plates of horn and bone formed by the skin. Because these plates are arranged in rows, they resemble belts in appearance – hence the name armadillo.
In young armadillos, the armor is still leathery, with increasing age the individual plates transform into hard bony plates. Globe armadillos are dark brown to greyish brown in color. They have a narrow head with a pointed snout, a six to eight-centimeter long tail, and are relatively long-legged.
An adult globe armadillo weighs about 1 to 1.6 kilograms and is between 35 and 45 centimeters long. Also typical are the differently trained front and rear feet: The front feet have four toes with sharp claws, while the middle three toes of the hind feet are fused like a hoof. Ball armadillos have hair-like hard bristles on the ventral side.
Where do bullet armadillos live?
Globe armadillos are native to central South America. There they occur in Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, and northern Argentina. Globe armadillos live in open grasslands, savannas, and dry wooded areas.
The closest relative of the globe armadillo, also known as the southern globe armadillo, is the three-banded armadillo, also known as the northern globe armadillo. There are also other species of armadillos, such as the bare-tailed armadillo, the giant armadillo, the soft armadillo, and the belted mole-rats.
How old do bullet armadillos get?
Captive bullet armadillos can live up to 20 years. They probably don’t live that long in their natural habitat.
How do bullet armadillos live?
Globe armadillos belong to one of the oldest groups of mammals: They are counted among the so-called secondary animals, which also include sloths and anteaters. The term “sub-joint animals” comes from the fact that these animals have additional articulated humps on the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae.
These ensure that the spine is particularly strong and stable and therefore armadillos have a lot of strength to dig in the ground for food. The ancestors and relatives of this group of animals lived on earth in the Tertiary, i.e. 65 million years ago. However, even then they were only found on the American continent.
And because South America was separated from Central and North America and from the other continents during the Tertiary period, this group of animals only developed here. Only when a land bridge to Central America was formed at the end of the Tertiary period were they able to spread further north.
Globe armadillos are mostly nocturnal. They seek a home in other animals’ abandoned burrows, rarely digging a burrow themselves. Sometimes they also sleep in the undergrowth of dense bushes. Most of the time they live as solitary animals, but sometimes several animals retreat to a burrow to sleep.
Globe armadillos have teeth that grow back throughout life as they wear down from chewing food. Blood circulation and the regulation of body temperature are also unusual: the veins leading to the heart form a dense network of tiny veins so that the heart muscles are particularly well supplied with oxygen.
However, armadillos cannot regulate their body temperature as well as other mammals: their body temperature remains relatively stable at outside temperatures of up to 16 or 18°C. However, if the outside temperature drops to 11°C, for example, the armadillo’s body temperature also drops. That is why they only occur in warm subtropical and tropical areas.
Friends and foes of bullet armadillos
Globe armadillos have few natural enemies because they have a perfect defense strategy: When threatened and when attacked, they curl up into a ball. The legs are hidden inside the ball. The armor plates of the head and tail form the breach of the bullet.
So no enemy predators like a fox or maned wolf can get to the ball armadillo – the hard shell protects it. The most dangerous enemy for the globe armadillo is man: Because its meat is very tasty, the animals are often hunted. In addition, their living space is becoming increasingly scarce.
How do bullet armadillos reproduce?
Female globe armadillos give birth to only one cub at a time. It is born between November and January after a gestation period of 120 days. They are nursed by their mother for two to three months, then they are weaned and grow up quickly. They become sexually mature at the age of nine to twelve months.
How do bullet armadillos communicate?
Ball armadillos hardly make any sounds. But when they curl up, they exhale, making a hissing sound as they do so.
What do bullet armadillos eat?
Globe armadillos feed primarily on insects and insect larvae. They like ants and termites best. With their powerful claws, they can even break open termite burrows or rip bark off trees to look for prey. They then fetch them from hiding places with their long, sticky tongue. From time to time they also snack on fruits and other plant parts.