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Giant armadillo

giant armadillo, giant armadillo picture
The giant armadillo Priodontes maximus, colloquially tatou, ocarro, tatu-canastra or tatú carreta, is the largest living species of armadillo although their extinct relatives, the glyptodonts, were much larger It lives in South America, ranging throughout as far south as northern Argentina[2] This species is considered vulnerable to extinction[1]

The giant armadillo prefers termites and some ants as prey, and often consumes the entire population of a termite mound It also has been known to prey upon worms, larvae and larger creatures, such as spiders and snakes, and plants[3]

At least one zoo park, in Villavicencio, Colombia – Los Ocarros – is dedicated to this animal


  • 1 Description
  • 2 Distribution and habitat
  • 3 Biology and behavior
  • 4 Threats
  • 5 Conservation
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links


The giant armadillo is the largest living species of armadillo, with 11 to 13 hinged bands protecting the body and a further three or four on the neck[4] Its body is dark brown in color, with a lighter, yellowish band running along the sides, and a pale, yellow-white head These armadillos have around 80 to 100 teeth, which is more than any other terrestrial mammal The teeth are all similar in appearance, being reduced premolars and molars, grow constantly throughout life, and lack enamel[5] They also possess extremely long front claws,[6] including a sickle-shaped third claw,[7] which are proportionately the largest of any living mammal[5] The tail is covered in small rounded scales and does not have the heavy bony scutes that cover the upper body and top of the head The animal is almost entirely hairless, with just a few beige colored hairs protruding between the scutes[5]

Giant armadillos typically weigh around 187–325 kg 41–72 lb when fully grown, however a 54 kg 119 lb specimen has been weighed in the wild and captive specimens have been weighed up to 80 kg 180 lb[8][9][10] The typical length of the species is 75–100 cm 30–39 in, with the tail adding another 50 cm 20 in[4]

Distribution and habitat

Giant armadillos are found throughout much of northern South America east of the Andes, except for eastern Brazil and Paraguay In the south, they reach the northernmost provinces of Argentina, including Salta, Formosa, Chaco, and Santiago del Estero There are no recognised geographic subspecies They primarily inhabit open habitats, with cerrado grasslands covering about 25% of their range,[11] but they can also be found in lowland forests[5]

Biology and behavior

Giant armadillos are solitary and nocturnal, spending the day in burrows[4] They also burrow to escape predators, being unable to completely roll into a protective ball[12] Compared with those of other armadillos, their burrows are unusually large, with entrances averaging 43 cm 17 in wide, and typically opening to the west[13]

Giant armadillos use their large front claws to dig for prey and rip open termite mounds The diet is mainly composed of termites, although ants, worms, spiders and other invertebrates are also eaten[4] Little is currently known about this species' reproductive biology, and no juveniles have ever been discovered in the field[14] The average sleep time of a captive giant armadillo is said to be 181 hours[15]

Armadillos have not been extensively studied in the wild; therefore, little is known about their natural ecology and behavior In the only long term study on the species, that started in 2003 in the Peruvian Amazon, dozens of other species of mammals, reptiles and birds were found using the giant armadillos' burrows on the same day, including the rare short-eared dog Atelocynus microtis Because of this, the species is considered a habitat engineer, and the local extinction of Priodontes may have cascading effects in the mammalian community by impoverishing fossorial habitat[16]

Female giant armadillos have two teats and are thought to normally give birth to only a single young per year Little is known with certainty about their life history, although it is thought that the young are weaned by about seven to eight months of age, and that the mother periodically seals up the entrance to burrows containing younger offspring, presumably to protect them from predators Although they have never bred in captivity, a wild-born giant armadillo at San Antonio Zoo was estimated to have been around sixteen years old when it died[5]


Hunted throughout its range, a single giant armadillo supplies a great deal of meat, and is the primary source of protein for some indigenous peoples In addition, live giant armadillos are frequently captured for trade on the black market, and invariably die during transportation or in captivity[17] Despite this species’ wide range, it is locally rare This is further exacerbated by habitat loss resulting from deforestation[1][17] Current estimates indicate the giant armadillo may have undergone a worrying population decline of 30 to 50 percent over the past three decades Without intervention, this trend is likely to continue[17]


The giant armadillo was classified as vulnerable on the World Conservation Union's Red List in 2002, and is listed under Appendix I threatened with extinction of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna

The giant armadillo is protected by law in Colombia, Guyana, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Suriname and Peru,[18][19] and international trade is banned by its listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species CITES[17] However, hunting for food and sale in the black market continues to occur throughout its entire range[17] Some populations occur in protected reserves, including the Parque das Emas in Brazil,[20] and the Central Suriname Nature Reserve, a massive 16-million-hectare site of pristine rainforest managed by Conservation International[21] Such protection helps to some degree to mitigate the threat of habitat loss, but targeted conservation action is required to prevent the further decline of this species

A giant armadillo enclosure at Villavicencio's Bioparque Los Ocarros


This article incorporates text from the ARKive fact-file "Giant armadillo" under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 30 Unported License and the GFDL

  1. ^ a b c Superina, M; Abba, A M; Porini, G & Anacleto, T C S 2009 "Priodontes maximus" IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Version 20104 International Union for Conservation of Nature Retrieved 4 November 2010 
  2. ^ Gardner, AL 2005 "Order Cingulata" In Wilson, DE; Reeder, DM Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference 3rd ed Johns Hopkins University Press p 98 ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0 OCLC 62265494 
  3. ^ "Animais em Extinção" hábitos alimentares do Tatu Canastra in Portuguese sitesgooglecom 
  4. ^ a b c d Burnie D and Wilson DE Eds, Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife DK Adult 2005, ISBN 0789477645
  5. ^ a b c d e Carter, TS; Superina, M & Leslie, DM Jr August 2016 "Priodontes maximus Cingulata: Chlamyphoridae" Mammalian Species 48 932: 21–34 doi:101093/mspecies/sew002 
  6. ^ Macdonald, D 2001 The Encyclopedia of Mammals Oxford: Oxford University Press 
  7. ^ Eisenberg, J & Redford, K 1999 Animals of the Neotropics: The Central Neotripics Vol 3: Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press 
  8. ^ Giant Armadillo, Arkive
  9. ^ "Armadillos, Armadillo Pictures, Armadillo Facts" Animalsnationalgeographiccom 
  10. ^ "Giant armadillo Priodontes maximus Kerr, 1792" PDF faunaparaguaycom 
  11. ^ Silveira, L; et al December 2009 "Ecology of the giant armadillo Priodontes maximus in the grasslands of central Brazil" Edentata 8, 9, &10: 25–34 doi:101896/0200100112 
  12. ^ "Giant Armadillo" Armadillo Online Archived from the original on 2013-11-12 
  13. ^ Ceresoli, N & Fernandez-Duque, E December 2012 "Size and orientation of giant armadillo burrow entrances Priodontes maximus in western Formosa Province, Argentina" Edentata 13: 66–68 doi:105537/0200130109 
  14. ^ Meritt, DA Research Questions on the Behavior and Ecology of the Giant Armadillo Priodontes maximus pp 30–33 
  15. ^ "40 Winks" Jennifer S Holland, National Geographic Vol 220, No 1 July 2011
  16. ^ Leite Pitman et al 2004[full citation needed]
  17. ^ a b c d e Aguiar, JM 2004 Species Summaries and Species Discussions pp 3–26 
  18. ^ Superina, M 2000 Biologie und Haltung von Gürteltieren Dasypodidae Zürich, Switzerland: Institut für Zoo-, Heim- und Wildtiere, Universität Zürich 
  19. ^ "Environmental Law Information" Ecolex 
  20. ^ "Center of Conservation" University of Washington Archived from the original on 2013-12-05 
  21. ^ "The Central Suriname Nature Reserve" Conservation International Archived from the original on 2011-10-02 

External links

Data related to Priodontes maximus at Wikispecies

  • Giant armadillo media at ARKive
  • "Priodontes maximus: Information" Animal Diversity Web 
  • "Priodontes maximus" UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre Archived from the original on 2009-08-20 
  • "Genus Priodontes" MSUedu Archived from the original on 2013-11-12 
  • Giant Armadillo Project: Habitat Use and Activity
  • Hotel Armadillo - PBS Nature video of burrow, adults and baby

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