Dasypus novemcinctus
Linnaeus, 1758

daz-E-pus nO-vem-sink-tus

Photo by Bob Gress.

The back, sides, tail, and top of the head are covered with dermal plates that are covered with leathery skin like the carapace of a turtle. The body is able to curl up because of 8 to 11 (typically 9) telescoping bands across the back. The tail is long and the ears are large. The feet have large claws for digging. The teeth lack enamel in adults, and there are no incisors or canines. Premolars and molars are indistinguishable and number about 32 (28 to 36). Color of the dorsum generally is grayish brown.
The subspecies of the nine-banded armadillo that occurs in Kansas is Dasypus novemcinctus mexicanus.

This Neotropical species ranges from central South America (east of the Andes Mountains) northward through Central America into southern North America. It has been dispersing northward through recorded history. It crossed the Rio Grande into South Texas sometime before 1854. It moved half way across Texas and into Louisiana by 1925 and was recorded in southern Oklahoma in 1936. The first few records of armadillos in Kansas may have represented introductions, but natural immigration led to well established populations in eastern Kansas and in western Kansas south of the Arkansas River by 1961. By the mid-1960s, the species had crossed the Arkansas River and occurred in much of Kansas. Although there still are no specimen records from a swath of western Kansas, the species likely occurs statewide.
The likely ancestor to the nine-banded armadillo, Dasypus bellus, was common in Florida and has been documented in Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas in Pleistocene deposits. 

(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record)
Open icons are questionable records; Click on a marker to view details.
  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 87 Total Records 
  • 40 Museum Vouchers 
  • 47 Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Barber (3); Bourbon (4); Butler (1); Chautauqua (6); Comanche (1); Cowley (2); Crawford (1); Douglas (2); Edwards (1); Ellis (4); Finney (2); Ford (1); Franklin (3); Gove (1); Greenwood (4); Harvey (1); Labette (3); Lane (1); Lyon (1); Marion (1); McPherson (2); Montgomery (8); Neosho (2); Osage (1); Pawnee (2); Pratt (3); Reno (1); Rooks (2); Rush (1); Russell (1); Saline (1); Sedgwick (1); Seward (1); Shawnee (2); Stafford (3); Sumner (4); Thomas (2); Trego (2); Wilson (2); Woodson (3);

Natural History:
The nine-banded armadillo is described as being nocturnal or crepuscular, although they sometimes are active above ground during the day. They reportedly prefer brushy habitat, but in Kansas they can be found in almost any habitat available. The are phenomenal diggers, and they construct burrows that may be shared with opossums, skunks, rabbits, cotton rats, and other animals. They do not hibernate, but their elaborate burrows contain a nesting chamber lined with grass clippings and other plant material to provide warmth. Outside the burrow, armadillos can move surprisingly quickly through dense vegetation. If caught, they can roll up into a ball for protection. More commonly, they rapidly dig a burrow to escape into or they squeeze themselves into a crack in a rock surface and arch their backs to prevent the predator (or human) from pulling them out. Small rivers normally are not a barrier to armadillos because they can swim and also can walk along the bottom for a considerable distance.
Adults may attain the following dimensions: total length 615-800 mm; length of tail 245-370 mm; length of hind foot 75-107 mm; length of ear 32-40 mm; weight 3.6-7.7 kg, of which 16% is the weight of the dermal carapace. I found no data on longevity in the species.
The armadillo feeds mostly on insects and other invertebrates. Less than 7% of their diet consists of plant material, primarily berries and seeds (persimmon fruit appears to be favored). About 2% is vertebrate material (amphibians, reptiles, ground-nesting birds and their eggs, and carrion. I once watched an armadillo feed on Brasilian free-tailed bats that fell to the ground when exiting en masse from Bracken Cave in Texas.
The nine-banded armadillo evidently has few enemies other than humans and their vehicles. I found one publication that documented consumption of an armadillo by a puma.
Females breed for the first time when 1 year old. Mating occurs during June to August, typically in July. Five days after fertilization, development of the fertilized egg ceases. The delay before implantation occurs can be as long as 4 months. Normally 4 precocial young (identical quadruplets from a single fertilized egg) are born in March or April after a gestation period of 120 days. The newborn are without armour and the shell is not fully formed until they are adults. The eyes are open at birth and the young are capable of moving about. After 2 months they are weaned but continue to forage with the female until she breeds later in the summer.

Occurrence Activity:
The nine-banded armadillo is the only mammal other than humans in which lepromatic leprosy can occur naturally. This, and the fact that armadillos produce genetically identical quadruplets, makes them ideal research subjects with regard to the study of leprosy.

1952 Cockrum, E. L. Mammals of Kansas. Univ. Kansas Publ. Mus. Nat. Hist. 7:1-303. ():
1975 Choate, J. R., and E. D. Fleharty Synopsis of native, Recent mammals of Ellis County, Kansas Occasional Papers of The Museum, Texas Tech University (37):1-80
1982 McBee, K., and R. J. Baker Dasypus novemcinctus Mammalian Species 162():1-9
1999 Wilson, D. E., and S. Ruff Smithsonian Institution Press, Washsington, DC. 1-750pp.
2008 Timm, R. M., G. R. Pisani, J. R. Choate, N. A. Slade, G. A. Kaufman, and D. W. Kaufman, . pp.
Account Last Updated:
7/13/2017 10:28:32 AM

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