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Animals use all kinds of tricks and adaptations to keep themselves safe from predators, but armadillos stand out for a really special reason: they have their own, built-in suit of armor!
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SOURCES:
https://armadillo-online.org/armadillos.html
http://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/group/armadillos/
http://www.arkive.org/giant-armadillo/priodontes-maximus/
https://a-z-animals.com/animals/pink-fairy-armadillo/
Animals come in all kinds of shapes and sizes.

Some are big and furry, others can be small and slimy ... And some even have a full suit of armor!

Like our friend Gaia the armadillo. Armadillos look a little like a mouse or a rabbit, but there’s something that makes them really special: they’re covered in hard, bony armor on their backs, heads, and sometimes their tails! [Squeaks squeaks] You're right! Armadillos do look really cool, Squeaks.

And their armor is more than just cool-looking. It also has an important job: protecting the armadillo from anything that might want to eat it — what we call predators. There are over twenty species, or types, of armadillo, which live in different parts of South America, Central America, and some places in North America.

Some species of armadillo are huge, like this giant armadillo. It can be around a meter, or three feet long. That’s about as long as a three-year-old human is tall!

Other armadillos, like the pink fairy armadillo, are tiny. They’re about 10 centimeters, or 4 inches long. They’re so small that I could fit one in the palm of my hand, and yes, their armor is pink!

Gaia is a southern three-banded armadillo, which are a little bigger: about 25 centimeters, or 10 inches — around as long as a piece of paper. But even though there are lots of different kinds of armadillos, they all have a few things in common. First, they all have their bony armor to keep them safe.

Things like skin and fur are pretty soft, so a lot of small animals can be in big trouble if predators that want to eat them get too close. That’s why they tend to run away and hide. But armadillos have an added layer of protection to keep themselves safe. [Squeaks squeaks] That’s right, they have their special armor.

Armadillos’ backs are covered in thick plates of bone, with a layer of tough, small scales on the outside. The scales are made of the same stuff that makes up our fingernails! And these scales have a fun name: they’re called scutes!

With all those scutes covering them, armadillos kind of look like little knights wearing suits of armor. That armor acts like a shield, keeping the the armadillo’s soft underside safe if a predator tries to bite it. Three-banded armadillos like Gaia can even curl all the way up into a little armored ball!

That would be pretty hard to bite! [Squeaks squeaks] Another thing all armadillos do is sleep underground, because it keeps them cooler when it’s hot out, and because it’s safer. Even for an animal with awesome armor, it isn’t always safe to sleep out in the open. If an armadillo is asleep, it might not notice a predator sneaking up on it.

So, armadillos sleep in underground in a home called a burrow. Some armadillos use burrows made by other animals, while some make their own. To make a burrow, they use their big front claws to dig through the dirt, creating a long tunnel that leads down to a bigger room.

Some armadillos will also make extra tunnels leading out of the burrow, so they have lots of choices for how to get in and out. Armadillos spend a lot of time working on their burrow, because they need them to be a great space for safe sleeping. And they need to sleep a lot — up to 16 hours a day!

Once they’ve gotten enough rest, armadillos crawl back up above the ground, then dig around eating plants, bugs, and all sorts of tasty foods perfect for a little armored friend. So, armadillos like Gaia are pretty well-prepared for whatever comes their way. Their armor and burrows help them stay safe in a big world.

If you were an armadillo, what kind of armor would you have? And what other animals do you want to learn more about? Have a grown-up help you leave a comment below, or send us an email at kids@scishow.com.

Thanks, and we’ll see you next time, here at the fort!