Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Brittany Smith- Pink Fairy Armadillo

For my natural history creature, I chose the Pink Fairy Armadillo. I really liked their silhouette and they're very distinct from the common armadillo that most people are familiar with. It is the smallest member of the armadillo family, weighing in at 1 pound and averaging 4'' long. Their dorsal shell is almost completely separate from the body, unique to the Pink Fairy Armadillo.

Photo from www.folkloredelnorte.com.ar

Where does it live?
--Pink Fairy Armadillos are found in central Argentina, in deserts and arid grasslands. 
--These areas are filled with thorn bushes and cacti.
--During the day, the PFA burrows in sand that is typically uncomfortably warm to the human hand. 
--Pink Fairy Armadillos are Noctournal, burrowing underground during the day
--Often seen out after rainfall, to avoid drowning in the sand burrows, and because insects are more plentiful after the rains.

How does that affect how it has evolved and looks?
--Long toes for digging into the sand to stay cool during the day. (Digs with front legs, kicks with back.) 
--Their tail cannot be raised but acts as a ballast when digging. 
--Torpedo shaped, and believed to be "sand swimmers," moving the sand around them as they travel through it. The bullet or torpedo shape helps the creature "swim"
--Uses flat shelled bottom as a cork to plug holes
--Bone plate at the pelvis and head connects protective shell to body. 

How does it feed?
--Scavenges ants, larvae, snails, worms, roots.

How does it procreate?
--Will have more than one mate
--Females give birth to one infant, shell does not harden until adulthood

• What are the differences between the male and female?
--No distinct outward gender difference
--Male armadillos have a very long, mobile phallus, to get around the shell and tail of the female. 
--Females have two mammae.

• What might be its evolutionary ancestors- what other creatures is it related to now?
--Related to large, well known hairy and dwarf armadillos
--Prehistoric ancestor is a Glyptadon, a giant, armored creature.  The Glyptodon's shell was built of tessellating hexagons of individual nodules of bone lined up against each other and fused
--Modern armadillos "shells" are the same concept, just arranged in bands

• Does it have any symbiotic relationships with other animals or plants. (such as how bees pollinate flowers or oxpeckers eat bugs off elephants)
-- No symbiotic relationships, but burrows tend to be found under or near an anthill or decaying corpse to provide "fast food" for these creatures.

•  How do they usually die?
--Natural aerial predators such as eagles and hawks 
--Habitat Destruction by Humans
--Predation by Domestic dogs

• What are their predators and how have they evolved to escape them?
--Predators are primarily aerial, the crowned eagle being one of them. Their eyesight allows them to spot the 4'' Armadillos out in the open. 
--Domestic dogs have also contributed to the predation of the species 
--The pink fairy armadillo is fast while under the sand and its coloration camouflages it within its surroundings. It surfaces randomly every 4-5 meters, then digs again. 

• Share anything else you discover that may be of interest
--Difficult to find, classified as endangered. 
--It has been reported that in over 200 hours of field time one group of researches could not find a single PFA.
--None have survived more than 4 years in captivity.
--Tracks have a small center tail line with footprints on either side
--Fossils of Armadillo predecessors were some of the first brought back by Darwin; he also noted that armadillos in general did not make a particularly filling breakfast.


I'll be starting sketches tonight!

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