Whitaker, John O., Jr. Department of Biology, Center for North American Bat Research and Conservation, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana.
Last reviewed:March 2016
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A heavily armored mammal in the order Cingulata. The order Cingulata (formerly Edentata or Xenarthra) comprises the armadillos, which are divided into two extant families: Chlamyphoridae and Dasypodidae. These creatures are characterized by bony dermal plates, which help to protect their bodies. Being mammals, they do have hair, but it is usually sparse and often quite inconspicuous. The anterior and posterior parts of the body are often heavily armored, whereas the midportion of the body is often encircled or partially encircled by rings. These rings are used taxonomically in describing and identifying many of the species of armadillos. The skin of the ventral part of the body is soft. The toes are clawed and are used to burrow and dig for food. The hind limbs always have five toes with claws; the forelimbs may have three, four, or five heavy claws used for digging. The snout is long, and the cylindrical viscous tongue is used in capturing food. The teeth are simple pegs with no roots and no enamel. Most species have about 14 to 18 teeth, but the giant armadillo, Priodontes maximus, has about 80 to 100 small teeth. It reaches a length of approximately 3 m (9.8 ft), whereas the smallest species, the fairy armadillo, Chlamyphorus truncatus, is about 12–15 cm (4.7–5.9 in.) in length. When disturbed, many species roll into a ball or wedge themselves into a burrow opening, with the dermal plates helping to protect them. See also: Burrowing animals; Dentition; Edentata; Mammalia; Scale (zoology)
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