[Audio] Amazing Armadillo Facts: Quadruplets, Pop-Ups, Leprosy and More!

Aug 7, 2015

A nine-banded armadillo
Credit James Hawkins, publicdomainpictures.net

Nine-banded armadillos can be found in Land Between the Lakes, eating pesky insects like yellowjackets, wasps and ants (and some plants, too). On Sounds Good, Kate Lochte speaks with Woodlands Nature Station Lead Naturalist John Pollpeter to learn more facts about the leathery little mammal, including a unique reproductive trait, what happens if you scare one and whether or not you can get leprosy if you eat one.

A unique reproductive trait is that armadillos give birth to litters of four quadruplets of the same gender. One fertilized egg splits into four and that becomes their litter for the year. Babies are identical and the same gender.

Armadillos have poor eyesight and not great hearing, Pollpeter says, though their sense of smell is very good. They can jump several feet in the air if they are scared or disturbed by something that might sneak up on them like cougars, coyotes, bears or humans. Since they don't have a lot of natural predators, one of their biggest problems comes from cars on the road. Whereas they might have just gotten lucky underneath the car, their instinct to 'pop-up' causes them to hit the grill or windshield.

Can you get leprosy if you eat one? Pollpeter says some armadillos do carry leprosy. These tend to be small population clusters (he recalls a group in central Florida). This isn't a concern unless you have prolonged exposure to an armadillo such as adopting one from the wild as a pet, caring for injured ones or eating them. Things in the wild tend not to eat armadillos - best to avoid eating them, too.

They live in warm places and aren't well adapted to cold weather. There is some hair, very fine on their shell and underside, but in the winter they are largely dependent on their fat reserves and deep holes or caves. Incidentally, one of the best times to see them at Land Between the Lakes is in January on the backroads if the weather is above 40 degrees.

Their shell is protective but soft and flexible, with nine bands connected to skin. Contrary to popular belief the nine-banded armadillo cannot roll into a ball, that would be their three-banded cousins in Brazil.

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