What are armadillos? Are they reptiles or mammals?

Any other interesting facts about armadillos?



  1. 0 Votes

    Armadillos, the group comprised of about nine species, are members of the Edentata (also includes other “unusually” animals, such as the sloths), and they are mammals. However, it is easy to see how an armadillo may be difficult to place into a taxonomic group and confused with reptiles. The armor on the back resembles that of a dinosaur and its body structure is similar to a monitor lizard. Even the naked tail could be mistaken for that of a snake if the rest of the body was not visible. However, there are some sure signs that the armadillo is in fact a mammal.

    nine-banded armadillo
    nine-banded armadillo

    Distinguishing characteristics

    Body temperature

    First, reptiles are ectothermic, or cold-blooded, animals while mammals are endothermic, or warm-blooded animals. Warm-blooded animals maintain their own body temperature internally and their temperature does not vary with the external environment. Armadillos are warm-blooded animals. They live primarily in warm habitats, including areas from Texas and Florida to Central America and South America. However, this habitat selection is more related to their body cover.


    Mammals also are defined by having hair while reptiles have scales. At first glance it is difficult to see the hair of some species of armadillos, but they do in fact have spare hairs, especially around their sides and belly. The smallest armadillo, the fairy armadillo, has a fair amount of white hair covering the body. Hair is used for protection from cold temperatures or from dust and other environmental conditions. Because armadillos live in warm climates, many have very sparse hair.

    Live birth and milk

    Mammals, with very few exceptions (namely, species within the Monotremes, such as the duck-bill platypus and the echidnas who actually lay eggs!), give live birth to babies that suckle milk from the mother. Reptiles either lay eggs or give live birth, but they do not nursery their young. In fact, most reptiles have very little interaction with their offspring. One exception is found in alligators, with the female watching over and protecting the young for some time after the babies hatch. The female will even carry the young to the water from the nest!

    Armadillos are very interesting mammals in that the female always give birth to four young that are identical! Many mammals give birth to a litter of young, but no other mammal is known to give birth always to identical twins, especially quadruplets!

    Ball shape

    Armadillos will roll their bodies into a ball for protection. This shape may remind one of a turtle pulling its body inside of its shell for protection. However, the external armor of the armadillos is not comprised of scutes as is the one of the turtle. The armadillo cannot pull its head and legs inside, but rather just tuck their nose to their tail.

    Other interesting facts

    Armadillos are incredibly interesting animals. Here are some other facts that you will find interesting.


    Armadillos range in size from the smallest fairy armadillo (which actually has a fair amount of hair) to the large giant armadillo. The nine-banded armadillo is the species residing in the United States. It is about the size of a small house cat.

    fairy armadillo
    fairy armadillo


    Armadillos feed on insects and other small invertebrates that are found in the leaf litter or organic matter on the ground. They tend to feed at dusk and dawn.


    All animals have some sort of defensive tactic to protect themselves from potential predators or competitors. One technique that armadillos use is called “stotting”. When startled an armadillo will jump straight up in the air, reaching up to three or four feet in height! This typically surprises the predator and it will run away, at least temporarily, giving the armadillo time to seek protection.

    However, armadillos evolved this technique before things like cars were running the highways. Armadillos spend a lot of time rooting around in the leaf litter and loose soil. They often wander on to roads and are frightened by cars. Unfortunately, when they stot, they jump up to the height of the front of the car and are often killed by impact. Drivers should use caution, especially around dusk and dawn, to avoid hitting armadillos. However, the population sizes of the animals in some areas, including Texas and Florida, have increased and many more individuals are making their ways onto the roads making it difficult for drivers to avoid every individual, even when the greatest caution is used.


    Another interesting fact about armadillos is that they are the only animal, besides humans, who is known to carry the disease Leprosy. Leprosy results in the loss of skin and eventually digits, such as fingers, noses, and ears. Leprosy is now treatable in humans.


    Armadillos are very interesting animals with a unique reproductive method and interesting defensive tactics. Armadillos are mammals, belonging to the Edentata group. Although they may look like reptiles at first glance, they maintain all of the characteristics of a mammal and none of a reptile.

    Photo Credits:


Please signup or login to answer this question.

Sorry,At this time user registration is disabled. We will open registration soon!