Did you know that the armadillo is being used to help find a cure for leprosy? One surprising fact is that armadillos are used in medical research as their low body temperature allows the bacteria to grow.
This preserved shell is of the Andean Hairy Armadillo (Chaetophractus nationi), a more rounded creature than the familiar Long Nosed Armadillo found in the USA. This species of armadillo lives in open high altitude grasslands in Bolivia and Northern Chile. Its size varies from 220 to 400 mm with a tail length of between 90 and 175mm.
The armadillo body, or carapace, is made up of bands of shell that get harder as the animal gets older as bone is deposited under the shell. The Hairy Armadillo has 18 bands of which seven or eight are moveable. You can see the symmetrical design of these in this photograph. Its shell or armour is covered with projecting hairs.
The armadillo feeds on maggots and other insects that it finds by burrowing its sharp nose into the ground underneath carcasses, or even into the carcass itself. It has a long sticky tongue which, as with its relative the anteater, allows it to eat insects as quickly as possible. This is true of many insect eating animals. Armadillos have poor eyesight and rely on their ears and nose to find their food.
Their low metabolic rate and lack of body fat also means that they cannot cope with very low temperatures.
This specimen is presented in a perspex box and on the underside you can see the head, legs and tail that are folded inside the shell.