Armadillo, a small mammal, related to the anteater and sloth, that is protected by armorlike bony plates. In most species, the plates cover the head, body, and tail, and the outer surfaces of the legs. The plates are usually embedded in the skin and are overlaid with thin, horny tissue. They form separate shields on the head, forequarters, and hindquarters. Bony plates around the middle of the body occur in flexible bands, permitting movement. Sparse hair grows on the unarmored parts of the body.

The armadilloThe armadillo is protected by armorlike bony plates covering most of the body.

Armadillos have small ears and long, pointed snouts. They have powerful claws on their forefeet, which are used to dig burrows. Most species live in their burrows during the day and emerge at night to feed. Armadillos eat termites, ants, snakes, carrion, and plants.

There are 20 species of armadillos. They inhabit grasslands and forests from southern Argentina to the southern United States. The giant armadillo is about five feet (1.5 m) long, including a 20-inch (50-cm) tail. It can sit up on its haunches by using its tail as a support. The pink fairy armadillo, or pichiciego, is the smallest species. It is about six inches (15 cm) long and is pinkish-white in color. Its armor, unlike that of other species, covers only the top of the head and body. The three-banded armadillo can roll itself into a ball for protection. The nine-banded armadillo is the only species found in the United States, primarily from North Carolina to Texas. It is about 30 inches (75 cm) long. A female typically bears one litter of identical quadruplets each spring.

Armadillos belong to the family Dasypodidae. The giant armadillo is Priodontes maximus or P. giganteus; pink fairy armadillo, Chlamyphorus truncatus; three-banded armadillo, Tolypeutes tricinctus; nine-banded armadillo, Dasypus novemcinctus.