Five Fascinating Facts About Armadillos

University of the Ozarks Biology Professor Dr. Frank Knight is considered one of the leading scholars in the country on armadillos. Since 1990, Dr. Knight and his U of O students have helped advance both the academic and scientific communities with the capture and study of armadillos. The nine-banded armadillo — the most wide-ranging of species and the one found in the Southern half of the U.S. — makes an interesting, unique and valuable research subject for a number of reasons. Armadillos are the living mammals most like the first placental mammals, the only mammal in the U.S. with a shell, the only animal that contracts leprosy other than humans, and the only mammal to give birth to litters of genetically identical quadruplets. They also have unusual body temperature control, developing a fever when they are cold. Because of these unique characteristics, armadillos have been important in the development of a leprosy vaccine, the understanding of reproduction, experiments in skin and organ transplants, and drug metabolism experiments.

Here are five fascinating facts that you might not have known about armadillos:

  1. Armadillos are not blind, but they do have very poor eyesight. They rely on their ears and noses more than their eyes to detect food or predators.
  2. Armadillos are used in leprosy research because their body temperatures are low enough for them to contract the most virulent form of the disease. They also do not have a very strong immune system, making them an ideal model for many types of medical research.
  3. Nine-banded armadillos always give birth to four identical young — the only mammal known to do so. All four young develop from the same egg, and they even share the same placenta.
  4. Armadillo teeth have no enamel. They also have very few teeth, just a few peg-like molars. Since they primarily eat insects, they don’t have to do a lot of heavy chewing, making big, strong teeth a waste of energy to grow.
  5. In 1728, His Majesty George II, King of England, was presented with an armadillo as a gift. This so-called “Indian Monster” was kept happy by serving it “Eggs very hard boil’d.”




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