Little Armored One
April 2, 2009 10:56 PM   Subscribe

What can jump 4 feet straight up, births identical quadruplet pups nearly every time, can curl itself into an armor-plated ball, walk underwater for up to six minutes and can swallow air until it bloats to double its size to float?

Dasypus novemcinctus, of course!

A place for all things armadillo: DilloScape
Armadillos and humans are the only mammals susceptible to leprosy: Armadillos and their role in the study of Hansen's Disease
From Mayan Legend, to Texas, and beyond: The Biogeography of the Nine-Banded Armadillo
One armadillo's sad story: Otis is Resurrected!
Also, Armadillo games, Flickr pool.
posted by iamkimiam (39 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
For the sake of scrupulous accuracy, D. novemcinctus can't roll into a ball. Only the genus Tolypeutes can do that trick...

Thanks for "Otis is Resurrected", though... I hadn't realized that the ending was changed for TAL. It's so much darker than the published version.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:17 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah. I don't know everything, but I was fairly sure that armadillos didn't transit the ocean floor.
posted by mrnutty at 11:19 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


One of my goals in life is to take an armadillo skeleton and shell, and completely articulate it with the plates. I think it would be wonderful.

I love these critters. They are one of the prime study animals for leprosy research, because of how low their body temperature is compared to most mammals. Unfortunately, the wild populations do tend to carry the disease as well.

I wonder how good of a pet they would make...
posted by strixus at 11:22 PM on April 2, 2009


The only thing I can think of whenever armadillos come up are the Juggernauts from Shadowrun.
posted by Caduceus at 11:26 PM on April 2, 2009


There's another animal that can curl itself into an armor-plated ball.
posted by eye of newt at 11:31 PM on April 2, 2009


Yep, those suckers can jump straight up. I inadvertently surprised one while using a leaf blower along a trail one day, and this 'dillo popped out of a hole like a whack-a-mole.

They're generally nocturnal, but sometimes I see them in the pasture during the day digging for bugs. They've got poor eyesight, so you can get right up to them. POP! There goes another armadillo.

A friend of mine claims that when working a wildfire many years ago in Florida, his crew used to play a game of "armadillo bowling' with a rolled-up armadillo and beer bottles. At least until someone told them they had leprosy, which quickly ended that bit of abuse.
posted by F Mackenzie at 11:38 PM on April 2, 2009


They make funny little grunting noises when startled, too.
posted by Addlepated at 12:04 AM on April 3, 2009


eye of newt, that's my favorite animal ever.

Also, this thread needs just a tad bit more cute.
posted by hifiparasol at 12:12 AM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yep, those suckers can jump straight up.

Leaping lepers!
posted by pracowity at 12:52 AM on April 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


I haven't seen a dillo since moving back to Texas 5 years ago, and have been sorely missing them. Not live, or dead. Not as something half glimpsed rustling thru the fields of the country place or the inevitable roadkill. Nothing. No sign. Nada. Zip. Zilch. It's like I imagined them.

I miss them. Where did they go?
posted by WolfDaddy at 2:00 AM on April 3, 2009


Armadillidium can curl themselves up too!
posted by Glow Bucket at 2:48 AM on April 3, 2009


I was going to guess me, but birthing the identical quad pups nearly EVERY TIME you jump 4 feet in the air? I can't do that.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:16 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


FYI, the leprosy factoid is not exactly accurate. Although there aren't many, there are other mammals suspectible to the leprosy bacterium, including certain monkeys.
posted by UsernameFilter at 3:53 AM on April 3, 2009


I figured there had to be a superhero with those abilities. What a disappointment.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:02 AM on April 3, 2009


Also known as "possum on the half shell."
posted by Pollomacho at 4:12 AM on April 3, 2009


I haven't seen a dillo since moving back to Texas 5 years ago

Woah, I read that wrong.
posted by Elmore at 4:26 AM on April 3, 2009 [8 favorites]


What can jump 4 feet straight up, births identical quadruplet pups nearly every time, can curl itself into an armor-plated ball, walk underwater for up to six minutes and can swallow air until it bloats to double its size to float?

I don't know but there's one right behind you!
posted by ElvisJesus at 4:27 AM on April 3, 2009


Is it just me, or does an armadillo look like a piglet in special forces spec?
posted by MuffinMan at 4:27 AM on April 3, 2009 [8 favorites]


I haven't seen a dillo since moving back to Texas 5 years ago

Woah, I read that wrong.

Is it try dillos are bigger in Texas? Is that where the get the ones for all those website videos?
posted by ElvisJesus at 4:29 AM on April 3, 2009


Or true
posted by ElvisJesus at 4:29 AM on April 3, 2009


I miss them. Where did they go?

There are certainly plenty of them in Georgia; they were in south GA at first but have migrated at least as far north as Augusta: I have seem them in the woods near my house recently.
posted by TedW at 4:53 AM on April 3, 2009


Ha. The second link in the FPP is to my website.

The whole thing started as a joke, but I kept adding to it, and now after 13+ years I find myself fighting Wikipedia for the #1 Google search result for "armadillo". I'm still getting ~15000 unique visitors a month to the site, if my stats are accurate.

For what it's worth, I've learned a lot about armadillos in researching the site, been interviewed several times, met some nice folks who do actual armadillo research, and have only seen them in person a couple of times. Heck, I study rats, not armadillos, and I live in Minnesota. I tell people that up-front, but they seem to accept me as an authority of some kind, because I have a PhD and a website. Armadillos are weird, and won't win any beauty contests, but for some reason people (including myself) find them fascinating.

So, yeah, Metafilter, you've discovered me and my armadillos. There's 20 species in 8 genera, only one of which is found in the US. If all you've seen is the plan ol' 9-banded, check out some of the others. Go on, knock yourself out. There's lots more. And pictures, too.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:48 AM on April 3, 2009 [14 favorites]


Frogs, that's awesome.
posted by now i'm piste at 6:22 AM on April 3, 2009


armadillos are also digging machines. i would think they would make a pretty poor pet unless you want a lscale version of the chunnel in your backyard.
posted by domino at 6:44 AM on April 3, 2009


A Texas Speedbump?
posted by 445supermag at 7:04 AM on April 3, 2009


I want a PhD and a website so that I can be an authority on something! I'll use my next AskMe to figure out exactly WHAT I should be an authority on...
posted by greekphilosophy at 7:21 AM on April 3, 2009


What can jump 4 feet straight up, births identical quadruplet pups nearly every time, can curl itself into an armor-plated ball, walk underwater for up to six minutes and can swallow air until it bloats to double its size to float?

I was going to say "Madonna." But armadillos, yeah, that'd work too.
posted by PlusDistance at 7:25 AM on April 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


We used to see them all the time when we lived in Texas. I will tell you that nothing bloats up real good quite like a dead armadillo on the side of the road.
posted by biscotti at 7:59 AM on April 3, 2009


Fascinating links! Thank you. And you have brought to mind unbidden a great memory. Bear with me:

When I was ten, our family hosted one of a group of Japanese teachers who descended on our small and unremarkable Wisconsin town for a few weeks' language immersion and homestay after a month-long intensive English program at an elite east coast university. The experience was great all around, I think, but one of the most lasting memories for me involved the teachers' recreation of their colleague Nobu-san's end-of-program presentation.

While all of the other teachers seemed to be serious about the program, which was we were told was quite competitive, Nobu had apparently enrolled primarily as a means of securing a few weeks' subsidized boozing and slacking, far from the watchful eye of his spouse. He made little effort to learn much of anything, which only became a problem when, on the last day of their seminar, he was required to give a five-minute presentation in English on a subject of his choosing.

Nobu had learned almost no English, but came up with a remarkable plan. He stopped in a tourist gift shop on the way to class and purchased a green pencil eraser shaped like an armadillo. He looked up the word in his bilingual dictionary, and was good to go. When his turn came, he stood in front of the audience of students and professors, solemnly started his watch, produced his green rubber prop, and began his soliloquy in his thick Japanese accent:

"Armadirro. ArrrrrrmaDIrro. Ar.....madirrO? ARMADIRRO!!! Ar.....ma...........DIRRO?!"

Five eternal minutes. One word. Every possible variation in nuance, inflection, phrasing, emotion, artfully emphasized with meaningful eraser-gestures. How I wish I could have been there to see it. Even just watching the staged recreation, as a 10-year-old, I experienced a full roller coaster of hilarity, outrage, boredom, discomfort, and back to hilarity. It was part of what helped me to understand Beckett as an undergrad.

And Nobu-san? He was sent home ignominiously immediately following the performance in fear that he would reflect poorly on the program in a homestay with a nice Midwestern family. And thus my sleepy Wisconsin farm town narrowly missed a visit by a great artist.
posted by dr. boludo at 8:09 AM on April 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


caution live frogs, that's awesome! I was looking for a link that mentioned something specifically about quadruplet pups, but wasn't buried (burrowed?) in the text. Your page was just what I was looking for, and it had an easy-read 'dillo faq to boot!

I also really like this photo on your home page (clicking on photo for +cuteness).
posted by iamkimiam at 8:50 AM on April 3, 2009


'If you should ever choose to bathe an armadillo,
Use one bar of soap
And a whole lot of hope
And seventy-two pads of Brillo'
-Shel Silverstein
posted by workerant at 8:55 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


My pappy told me dillas taste pretty good.
posted by Nelson at 9:08 AM on April 3, 2009


Oh man, I remember reading that Otis story a few years ago (from here, maybe?), I loved it then and I love it now.

I love dillo's and was super psyched when I moved from New England to New Mexico on my motorcycle and saw my first ones in the wild.

They're so crazy looking.
posted by lumpenprole at 9:24 AM on April 3, 2009


I miss them. Where did they go?

IIRC, their decline is due, like just about everything else's decline, to the spread of fire ants. At least they lasted longer than the horned toads.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:57 AM on April 3, 2009


mmm smooth on the inside,crunchy on the outside
posted by fistynuts at 10:48 AM on April 3, 2009


I grew up in the Texas Hill Country, so I know armadillos well. At one point, we had a school bus driver who would occasionally pull over and let us out to chase one. I ate armadillo one time, but I don't remember how it tasted (I've also eaten rattlesnake).

I've regaled my kids with my childhood armadillo-chasing stories, but my 9-year-old son finally saw some up close for the first time a couple of months ago at Canyon of the Eagles. The place was lousy with them--especially digging in the soft green grass over the laterals from the park's septic tank!

My son and I chased and caught several armadillos that weekend. Photos here. Good times.
posted by tippiedog at 11:00 AM on April 3, 2009


The statistic I read, which I cannot confirm at the moment, is that 20% of them have an infection of leprosy in their feet.

I took the fact the infection is in their feet to be an indicator that this is a defense strategy, because the feet remain vulnerable in the armored ball state.

I also thought that the 'Chupacabra' business was merely the occasional sighting of a canine (coyote, wild dog) who got desperately hungry and made the mistake of going for it, so it's interesting to read that leprosy infections are rare in other mammals, if not unheard of. Perhaps it's rare in other mammals because most of them have such better senses of smell than we do.
posted by jamjam at 11:11 AM on April 3, 2009


jamjam - it's actually temperature. The bacterium that causes Hansen's disease (the preferred term, given the whole negative history of the words "leper" and "leprosy") can't grow at too warm a temperature. Most mammals have a high enough core temperature to discourage growth of the bacteria. Humans have enough cool spots that it does fairly well in us. It can be grown in the foot pads of some animals (dogs and mice) but in armadillos it grows quite well because they have a network of heat exchange vessels that keep the limbs relatively cool to preserve core temperature. Similar networks are present in aquatic diving mammals.

(Also, the three-banded armadillo definitely does not expose anything except shell when fully rolled. They look like little bocce balls.)
posted by caution live frogs at 12:08 PM on April 3, 2009


Oh Best Beloved, I cannot believe that no one has linked yet to the true origin of armadillos.

'Can't curl, but can swim-- Slow-Solid, that's him! Curls up, but can't swim-- Stickly-Prickly, that's him!'
posted by tdismukes at 12:21 PM on April 3, 2009


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