The Well-Protected Armadillo

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 9
In God's creation no two creatures are ever exactly alike, and they all follow the original pattern God gave them. Each species has been provided with distinctive features best suited for its manner of life. The armadillo is an outstanding example because it is so different from all other animals. Its name comes from a South American Indian word meaning "armor." This armor covers the armadillo from the tip of its pointed snout to the end of its long tail, including its short legs and feet. Flexible and tough, this armor crosses the back of the armadillo in bands connected by bony rings. The parts over its shoulders and head, lower back and tail, are separate pieces. Though it looks like it is ready for battle, it is actually a peaceful animal.
The underpart of its body is not shielded, but has a thick, tough skin. This all-over protection is not only helpful against attacks by large animals, but enables it to travel through thorny, sharp undergrowth without harm. It has been given other means of defense too. Where the soil is soft it escapes by burrowing rapidly with its long claws. Once it is underground, it is almost impossible to pull out. Some varieties can roll into a tight ball so they are completely protected by their armor.
Although they have only very small teeth at the back of their mouths, like their relative the anteater, they have long, sticky tongues which they use to catch great quantities of ants, termites, beetles and other insects. The fangs of snakes cannot pierce their armor, so all reptiles fear them since the armadillo can kill them by pressing its armor's sharp edges into them. Besides killing and eating snakes, they eat spiders, earthworms and land snails, but their main food is what we call destructive insects, including fire ants. So they are a real help to farmers.
It is interesting to watch them cross a stream. Since they are able to hold their breath for as long as five or six minutes, they walk along the bottom of the stream to reach the other side. The weight of their armor keeps them from floating away. But if they decide to swim across, they first swallow lots of air, which keeps them on the surface while they paddle along.
Females of the nine-banded species almost always bear quadruplets (four), and they are either all males or all females—never mixed. Their armor is soft when they are born, but it soon toughens and hardens as they get older.
Are you wearing this shelter and protection?