Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Jaden. Jaden Wonders, “What are armadillos?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Jaden!

Have you ever been to the desert? The next time you’re hanging out among the cactuses, keep your eyes open for a unique animal. What does it look like? It’s about the size of a small dog. And it might look like it’s ready for battle. What are we talking about? The armadillo, of course!

Just ask anyone who’s ever seen an armadillo. They’re odd-looking animals for sure. Why? Their heads, backs, legs, and tails are covered with bony plates. They look a bit like armor.

In fact, that’s how they got their name. Armadillo comes from a Spanish word that means “little armored one.” Armadillos are the only mammals in the world that have such body armor.

There are roughly 20 different types of armadillos in the world. They are often associated with the warm, desert areas of the Southwestern United States. However, almost all armadillo species live in Latin America. Only one—the nine-banded armadillo—lives in the U.S.

Some people think armadillos are related to turtles. That’s because of their bony exteriors. In fact, the Aztecs called them “ayotoch,” or “turtle rabbit.” However, armadillos are actually most closely related to anteaters and sloths

Armadillos come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. At their smallest, they are only six inches long. Giant armadillos can reach five feet or more. Armadillo colors range from pink and dark brown to black, gray, yellow and red!

The armadillo’s hard-shelled exterior can help protect it from predators. The three-banded armadillo can even tuck in its head and tail to form a hard ball. This will defeat most any predator that tries to attack.

Armadillos hate cold weather. That explains why you’ll find them in warm places. They live in deserts, temperate grasslands, and rainforests. Armadillos also dig holes in the ground to live in. They sleep about 16 hours each day!

They wake up to look for food in the early morning and early evening. They eat mainly insects. Meals might include beetles, termites, and ants. Their eyes don’t work very well, so they usually rely on their noses to find food.

Their poor eyesight might also help to explain another armadillo phenomenon. In the Southwestern United States, they often wander onto highways where they are run over by cars regularly. Their armor often damages the cars that hit them.

Have you ever seen an armadillo? They’re definitely interesting-looking animals. But if you see one, remember to keep your distance. Armadillos are wild animals and sometimes carry disease. They also jump very high—about four feet—when startled. Never sneak up on an armadillo!

Standards: NGSS.LS1.A, NGSS.LS4.C, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.4

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