Nine-banded armadillo, North, Central and South America, 75 cm (30 in) longThe armadillo is a type of mammal protected by a scaly suit of armour. Armadillos feed mostly on small animals and insects, for which they go foraging in the early mornings and evenings. They have poor eyesight, so they use their keen sense of smell. They are excellent diggers. Their clawed front feet work at speed to quarry the soil while their back feet push it away as it piles up underneath them. They lap up insects using their long, sticky tongues.
Armadillos do not need camouflage—they have a suit of armour to protect themselves. This is made from strong, bony plates, covered in horny scales called scutes. It covers the whole body, including the tail, head and limbs. Only the belly is soft, and one species, the three-banded armadillo, can protect even this part by curling itself up into a ball. Most armadillos do not rely entirely on their armour for protection: they try to escape predators by running away.
The word armadillo means "little armoured one" in Spanish. The Aztecs called the animal a “turtle-rabbit”.
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