Chaetophractus villosus - Large Hairy Armadillo
Average head and body length 220-400mm
Average tail length 90-175mm
Average weight 2.02kg
hairy armadillo (Chateophractus villosus) is
the largest armadillo in the genus Chateophractus (Redford and Eisenberg 1992). Like other armadillos it is covered in
armor. The armor develops from skin and
is made up of hard bony plates called scutes
(MacDonald 2001). The carapace (armor)
protects the shoulders, back, sides, and rump (Nowak 1999). The central portion of the armor is made up
of about 18 bands, 7-8 of which are movable.
In addition to the carapace, there is a shield on the head and between the
ears. Some individuals in this species
have 3-4 holes in the pelvic region of the armor that open to glandular pits
(Redford and Eisenberg 1992). The large
hairy armadillo, as the name suggests, has more hair than other
armadillos. Hair projects from the
scales of the armor, and whitish to light brown hairs cover the belly (Nowak
1999). C. villosus has 5 claws on the hind limbs
and 3, 4, or 5 claws on the very powerful forelimbs. These animals have 14-18 teeth in each jaw
(MacDonald 2001). C. villosus being a member of the dasypodidae family has simple oval teeth in cross section (Vizcaino et al 2004).
They have poor eyesight, and well developed hearing (MacDonald
is found in South America, from northern Paraguay,
to the Gran Chaco of Bolivia to central Argentina
(Redford and Eisenberg 1992). The large
hairy armadillo is found in two national parks in Paraguay,
the Defensores del Chaco in
and the Teniente Enciso in
females of the species mate in September, but males have been observed mounting
females in every month of the year (Redford and Eisenberg 1992). The males follow the females until they are
ready to breed. Up to 1/3 of females
will fail to breed each year. Lactating
and pregnant females can be very aggressive (MacDonald 2001). Females build a nest by collecting leaves
under their body and then kicking it behind them to form a mound. The females will growl at anything disturbing
their nest site (Redford and Eisenberg 1992).
They experience a 60-75 day gestation period. There is more than 1 litter annually. Usually fraternal twins are born, one male
and one female (MacDonald 2001). Birth
occurs from February to December (Redford and Eisenberg 1992). The young weigh 155 g at birth and open their
eyes after 16-30 days. They are weaned
at 50-60 days, and reach sexual maturity at 9 months (Nowak 1999). The young are active in the late morning or
the early afternoon (MacDonald 2001).
Ecology and Behavior:
is an omnivorous species (Machiote 2004). They eat mainly invertebrates. They move slowly along the ground with their
nose in the soil or leaf litter. They
dig up material and open rotten logs with their fore claws. These animals will burrow under and into
carcasses to reach maggots (MacDonald 1999).
They also consume plant matter, carrion, eggs, occasional snakes and
lizards (MacDonald 2001). Some have been
seen killing snakes by jumping on them and cutting them with the edge of their
armor (Nixon 2004). C. villosus preys on Kelp gulls (Larus domnicanus)
in Patagonia, Argentina
(Borboroglu and Yorio
2003). The large hairy armadillo also
preys on Imperial Cormorants (Phalacrocorax atriceps) and Rock Shags (Phalacrocorax magellanicus) in Patagonia,
Argentina (Punta et al
C. villosus is
solitary except when rearing young or mating (Machiote
2004). These animals inhabit open areas
in semi-desert conditions (Nowak 1999). C. villosus
also inhabits desert, temperate grassland, and forest. They have an average home range or 3.4
hectares (Nixon 2004). They can tolerate
very dry conditions (MacDonald 2001). These mammals have a low body temperature
(24-35.2ºc) to conserve heat and moisture.
They can also shiver to generate heat.
They spend the coldest and hottest parts of the day underground. C. villosus shifts activity to forage in the warm mid-day
or the cool and moist evening, but they are mostly nocturnal. The large hairy armadillo may have extensive
burrow systems (MacDonald 2001). They
occupy burrows for only short periods of time, and then move to a new one (Machicote 2004).
armadillo is predated upon by canines, aves, and
humans (Nixon 2004). When chased the
hairy armadillo first tries to run away and may snarl. It tries to find a hole or will burrow into
the ground to avoid predators. It
anchors itself in its burrow by spreading its feet out sideways and bending its
body so the hind edges of the bands clings to the burrow wall (Nowak 1999). If it can not outrun its pursuer, it withdraws
its limbs under the carapace and sits as tightly to the ground as possible
The hairy armadillo can live 8-12
years in the wild. There are reports of them living up to 30 years in captivity
(MacDonald 2001). Armadillos can become infected with leprosy.
They exhibit no external symptoms until the
disease has progressed significantly.
was first found in populations of armadillos in the 1970s.
is hunted by humans for food and because they cause damage to agricultural
lands (Nixon 2004).
The species has some
unique features that make it coveted for biomedical research (Codon
it is the second most common armadillo found in zoos (Nixon 2004).
Borboroglu, Pablo Garcia and Pablo Yorio.
2003. Habitat requirements and selection by Kelp Gulls (Larus domnicanus) in central and northern
Argentina. The Auk. Vol.121. No.1. Pages 243-252.
Codon, S.M., Estecondo, S.G., Galindez, E.J., and Casanave,
E.B. 1999. Ultrastructure and morphometry of ovarian follicles of
the armadillo Chaetophractus villosus (mammalia,
dasypodidae). Departmento de Biologia. Universidad Nacional del Sur, San Juan.
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Books. New York.
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& Villarreal, Diego. 2004. Burrowing owls and burrowing mammals: Are ecosystem engineers interchangeable as
facilitators? Oikos.Vol 106. Issue3. Pages 527-535.
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Accessed 30 September 2004.
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World. Sixth Edition. Vol 1. 1999. The
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requirements of the Imperial Cormorant and Rock Shag in Central Patagonia,
Argentina. 2002. Waterbirds. Vol.26. No.2. Pages 176-183.
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1992. Vol.2 University of
Press. Pages 54-56.
Vizcaino, Sergio and Gerardo De Luliis.
2003. Evidence for advanced carnivory in fossil armadillos: Mammalia
Xenartha Dasypodidae. Paleobiology.
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Yahnke, Christopher Isabel Gamarra de Fox and Flavio Colman. Mammalian species richness in Paraguay:
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Reference written by Katherin Perryman, Biol 378
(Mammalogy), University of Wisconsin – Stevens
Point: Edited by Christopher Luddington.
Page last updated March 4, 2005.