X is for Xenarthra – Armadillos
Xenarthra is a superorder of animals, the word literally means ‘strange joints’ or joints that have unusual articulation, and animals this includes are Folivra (sloths etc.), Pilosa (anteaters etc.) and Angulata (armadillos etc.).
I’m going to do the pink fairy armadillo, because someone asked me to, on one of my first posts, and the hairy, screaming armadillo, because I have one.
This photo montage of the pink, fairy armadillo is from Gafa Kassim on Flikr:
It is a very strange but rather cute little creature, and as you can see, not as big as a hand. It is the smallest of the armadillos, living underground in Argentina, where it digs through soil and backs up with its ‘butt plate’ armour to compact the earth behind. It’s thought it does this to keep its tunnels from caving in.
It has enormous claws for digging compared to its body size, usually making its burrows next to ant colonies, which is handy for when it wants a snack because ants are what it eats.
And under the soil is where it spends most of its time. It only comes to the surface if it meets rock, or for instance the substrate of a road, and can’t go any further, or if if the soil is waterlogged, as it may get cold and wet which could cause illness.
When it does come to the surface at a road and attempt to cross until it can find burrowing soil again, it is often run over, or picked up by humans.
In Science News in 2013 it was reported that Mariella Superina of the CONICET research centre in Mendoza, Argentina had been researching the rate of extinction of the 21 species of armadillos and their close relatives for 10 years, and had never seen pink fairy armadillo in the wild. She said that the natives could track and find anything except this little creature.
The ones that were picked up by humans usually died within about 8 days.
It is thought to be endangered.
The other armadillo, the hairy, screaming armadillo, is bigger, at about 14 inches long. It is also covered in a leathery, armoured shell.
One day last year we were wandering down a street in Bristol during a festival, and on a stall selling bric a brac, I saw a hairy screaming armadillo. Not long before, I’d researched them and written a poem about them, so I was pretty sure it was one. Not alive of course – its shell, still complete with bristles.
The price was rather high. But I yearned. My dear husband went back and bartered them down – he presented it to me for our anniversary. So now the mortal remains of one poor, hairy, screaming armadillo sits beside my desk; a representation of man’s exploitation of creatures. He was killed to be a curio, a curious ornament. I will take him into schools and show children.
When I got home I compared the shell to pictures and descriptions and counted its segments and it is indeed a hairy, screaming armadillo.
This type of armadillo eats insects, small mammals like mice, frogs and also plants. It lives in hot, dry areas in burrows. They swallow so much sand when they eat, sometimes their stomachs are half full of it.
They have bristles poking out in between the plates of their shell.
If they are threatened, including if a human touches or picks one up, they emit a sharp, high, piercing shriek.
Here is this one’s poem:
Hairy Screaming Armadillo
The screaming, hairy, armadillo –
a bony, bristly, thistly fellow,
with a loud and squeaky bellow,
if you kept one by your pillow,
you’d have a great alarmadillo!
Poem © Liz Brownlee
Here is a little video on YouTube of a hairy screaming armadillo – screaming. It’s quite a good non-aggressive defense mechanism:
All material © Liz Brownlee except where stated.
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