If you’re ever out wandering the desert roadside amongst the cactuses, you should keep your eyes open for a peculiar animal. About the size of a small dog, he might look like he’s ready to do battle. What are we talking about? The armadillo, of course!

Just ask anyone who’s ever seen an armadillo. They’re odd-looking creatures for sure. Why? Their heads, backs, legs and tails are covered with bony plates that look a bit like armor.

In fact, that’s how they got their name. Armadillo comes from a Spanish word that means “little armored one.” Armadillos are the only mammals in the world that have such body armor.

There are approximately 20 different types of armadillos in the world. Although armadillos are commonly associated with the warm, desert areas of the Southwestern United States, almost all armadillo varieties live in Latin America. Only one — the famous nine-banded armadillo — lives in the U.S.

Although their bony exteriors may make them seem like long-lost relatives of turtles, armadillos are actually closely related to anteaters and sloths. They come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors.

The smallest armadillos might reach only six inches long, while giant armadillos can reach five feet or more. Common armadillo colors range from pink and dark brown to black, gray, yellow and red!

The armadillo’s hard-shelled exterior can help protect it from predators. The three-banded armadillo can even tuck in its head and tail to form a hard ball that will defeat most any predator that tries to attack.

Armadillos hate cold weather. That explains why you’ll find them in warm habitats, including deserts, temperate grasslands and rainforests. Armadillos tend to dig burrows in the ground and sleep about 16 hours each day.

They wake up to forage for food in the early morning and early evening. Their diet includes mainly insects, such as beetles, termites and ants. Their eyes don’t work very well, so they usually rely on their noses to find food.

Their poor eyesight might also help to explain another armadillo phenomenon: in the Southwestern United States, they often wander onto highways where they are run over by cars on a regular basis. This sad state of affairs has earned the nine-banded armadillo the dubious nickname “hillbilly speed bump”!

68 Join the Discussion

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  1. Questions: how fast can a armadillos run in a hour?

    Predictions: I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day is going to be about ice cream.

    • Good morning, Jasmine, Korean, and Lilly! Thank you for stopping by to Wonder about armadillos with us today! Aren’t they cool creatures? We Wonder if you live in a climate that armadillos like, Wonder Friends?

      We hope you’ll do some more research of your own about how fast armadillos can move, especially if they feel threatened by a predator. :)

    • Well hello Elijah, Daisy, and Sadie! We like your questions and comments about the armadillo! Keep WONDERing with the help of your teacher or school librarian to find out more about the life of armadillos. We bet you’ll find the answer to “where they live” in today’s text! :)

  2. THOUGHT:I thought the armadillo was scared of the man how was holding it.

    CONNECTION:when I was little and I went to the zoo I saw an armadillo and they look scary.

    WWOTD: the animals at the zoo have their own habitat.

    PREDICTION:I predict tomorrow’s wonder of the day will be about candy.

  3. THOUGHT: I thought armadillos were called a hillbilly speed bump.

    CONNECTION: I really don’t like armadillos I don’t know why.

    WWOTD: The armadillo’s habitat is in the desert.

    PREDICTION: I predict tomorrow’s wonder will be about being healthy.

    • WOOHOO, Assata, Destiny, and Deven are here today! You’ve done a great job sharing your thoughts, connections and predictions today, Wonder Friends! The armadillo in the video began to curl up using the flexible part of their armor and their muscles. They do this when they are protecting themselves – some armadillos can curl up into a ball of defense! WOW!

      We look forward to finding out what tomorrow’s Wonder will be with you all, we love your predictions! Keep up the great work! :)

  4. THOUGHT: I thought the video was good and funny.
    CONNECTION:I held an armadillo before at the petting zoo and as soon as I put it down it ran really fast. PREDICTION:I think tomorrow’s wonder word of the day will be funny.
    WWOT:My habitat is my home.

  5. THOUGHT:I had no idea that their shells are mostly unbreakable.
    CONNECTION:I didn’t like armadillos until I watched that video
    WWOTD: People have habitats too
    PREDICTION: It will probable be about something that always makes people smile

  6. THOUGHT:Why is the armadillo related to the sloth?
    1.If the armadillo is related to the sloth why doesn’t it climb trees?
    2.Sloth is a tree turtle and very slow but the armadillo in that video was a scurry little guy.

    CONNECTION:When the article said it was a long lost relative of the turtle, I think yes. The other day when I was eating I saw a turtle but the shell was too rounded…mm.

    WWOTD: Can a garden be a habitat for a armadillo?

    PREDICTION:I think tomorrow’s Wonder is about the muscle in your body.

    • You’ve done a WONDERful job of sharing your creative comments today, Tiffany, Jeremiah, and Tam! Way to go!

      We’re very excited to know that you each learned something new about armadillos, and you had great connections to today’s Wonder, as well! Nice work! We hope you’ll do some more WONDERing of your own about the history of the armadillo using the Internet and your school’s library. Perhaps you can learn about their relationship to the sloth! We look forward to learning from YOU! :)

  7. THOUGHT. I thought they were going to be really slow but there fast.

    CONNECTION: I’ve seen one get run over.

    WWOTD: People can have habitats .

    PREDICTION: I bet tomorrow’s wonder will be about something fun.

  8. THOUGHT: I liked the story because it told you how the armadillo looked like and and it had lots of details. CONNECTION: I saw armadillos at the zoo before.
    WWOTD:The armadillo has a habitat.
    PREDICTION:I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about why you smile.

  9. THOUGHT:I never knew that armadillos could run that with a heavy shell on their back that is really weird.

    CONNECTION:My little friend went away I let him lose and he got away.

    WWOTD: Armadillos live in there own habitat.

    PREDICTION: I think tomorrow’s wonder will probably be about animals.

    • Good morning, Alex, Elizabeth, and Kaylen! You have learned so much about armadillos today, we’re glad you’ve been WONDERing here today! We think it would be very difficult to run quickly with a protective shell on our backs, but armadillos seem to do a great job adapting!

      Thank you for sharing your connections, Wonder word sentences, and predictions today! We can’t wait to Wonder with you tomorrow – we’ll be smiling! :)

  10. Thought: What is tomorrow’s story going to me about?

    Connection: I went to the zoo and saw the monkey habitat.

    WWOTD: Habitat – my house is my habitat.

    Prediction:I bet tomorrow’s story is going to be about a plant.

  11. Thought : well I can see it about armadillos but I would like you to show

    me one of the armadillos

    Connection : I once saw a dead armadillo in the road

    Prediction : it will be a about happy people

    I saw animals in their habitats .

  12. THOUGHT: I thought the animal was very calm and it wasn’t trying to bite and it ran really fast.

    CONNECTION: I have a connection my connection is that some animals are like armadillos because they don’t attack.

    WWOTD:The word of the day is habitat, a type of environment in which and organism or group normally lives.

    PREDICITION:My Predicition is that it’s going to be about science.
    Some animals are in their natural habitat.

    • We love your curiosity for tomorrow’s Wonder, Danessa, Christopher, and Andrea! You’ve done a great job of sharing what you learned from today’s “little armored one” Wonder! Thanks for visiting us today to Wonder together, we are always happy to learn with our Wonder Friends! Keep up the great work! :)

  13. THOUGHT:I have seen an armadillo before.

    CONNECTION:I found an armadillo in my backyard.

    PREDICTION:I predict that tomorrow’s wonder of the day will be about something big.

    EXAMPLE: An armadillo’s habitat is in the desert.

    WWOTD: habitat

  14. THOUGHT:I think armadillos are very interesting creatures they can do many different things.

    CONNECTION:I think you can start to study armadillos to learn more about them.

    PREDICTION:Tomorrow is going to be about teeth and the dentist.

    WWOTD:My hobby is basketball my habitat is the gym.

  15. THOUGHT–I thought today we were going to learn about health.

    CONNECTION–At my old house I saw an armadillo in the woods.

    PREDICTION–I like armadillos.

    WWOTD–My habitat is in my living room.

    • Thanks for sharing your WONDERful comments with us today, Keith, Jeremiah, and Tairyn! We think it’s great how much you learned about armadillos today and some of you have even seen them in your town! WOW, how cool! :)

      We think you’re on the right track when it comes to tomorrow’s Wonder, make sure you show off your pearly whites! Thanks for visiting us today, Wonder Friends! :)

  16. THOUGHT: I think armadillo’s are awesome.

    CONNECTION: I have seen an armadillo before.

    PREDICTION: My prediction for tomorrow’s wonder is going to be about your teeth.

    EXAMPLE: Every animal has a different habitat.

    WWOTD: Habitat means “A type of environment in which a organism or group normally lives”.

  17. THOUGHT: They look like they’re wild.

    CONNECTION: I haven’t seen one.

    WWOTD: My habitat is Doe Creek.

    PREDICTION: I think it will be cool and it will be about an animal that will be funny.

  18. THOUGHT: I think armadillos never die by predators because of its armor.
    CONNECTION:It looks like the armored dinosaur.
    WWOTD:Habitat is an animal’s home.
    PREDICTION:About a sport.

    • What great comments you’ve shared, Jenna, TJ, and Chett! Thanks for visiting us today to Wonder about the very cool armadillo. We learned so much about their lives and habitats and we’re glad you shared your thoughts and connections, too! You’ve done a great job of using your imaginations to predict the Wonder tomorrow, too! WOOHOO for WONDERing! :)

  19. THOUGHT: I don’t think that I’m going to pick one up it looks mushy! gross!

    CONNECTION: That’s awfully small & fast.
    wwotd: habitat, type of environment in groups live. ex,a kangaroo lives in a desert.

    PREDICTION: please don’t be gross tomorrow.

  20. THOUGHT:it looks really creepy in a way.

    CONNECTION:I want to be a veterinarian but I don’t know now.

    WWOTD:Habitat is were animals live.

    • Good work, Jacob, Janiya, and Deven! Armadillos might not look like the animals we keep as pets (like dogs or cats), but they sure are cool to Wonder about! We enjoyed reading your connections to today’s Wonder and we hope you’ll keep WONDERing about YOUR favorite animal. You can use your imagination to think about what it would be like to have armadillo armor on our backs all day long! :)

  21. CONNECTION:When I went to the zoo I saw an anteater.

    THOUGHT:I think that armadillos kind of do look like an anteater.

    WWOTD:Habitat- type of environment in which an organism or group normally lives. The animals at the zoo should be in their HABITAT.

    PREDICTION: I think it will be about it takes more muscle to frown than smile.

  22. THOUGHT: I thought armadillos ate meat.

    CONNECTION: I have an armadillo shell.

    PREDICTION: Day will help put a big smile on your face.

    WWOTD: My habitat is at home in my bed.

    • Way to go, Kaylee, Timothy, and Lindsey! You’ve done a great job WONDERing with us today! We sure did learn a lot about the armadillo’s habitat and lifestyle with you today. Thanks for sharing your comments with us! We look forward to WONDERing with you again soon! :)

  23. I didn’t know that armadillo’s didn’t like cold weather I thought that they just lived in deserts and stuff. I’ve seen an armadillo before too. I think armadillos are cool in their own way!!!!!! <3 8-)

    • Good morning to our Wonder Friends Kamarien, Rafael, and Jessica, you’ve done a SUPER job sharing your connections to today’s Wonder about armadillos! The word armadillo comes from a Spanish word that means “little armored one”, as armadillos were first spotted by Spanish-speaking conquistadors. Thank you for visiting us today – we look forward to discovering tomorrow’s Wonder with you soon! :)

  24. Thought:I never knew that armadillos had armor.
    Connection:I probably wouldn’t like to touch one because they look gross.
    WWOTD: Armadillos are carnivores.
    Prediction: I predict that tomorrow the wonder of the day will be about ice cream.

  25. I din’t know that armadillos didn’t see well.
    I also didn’t know their name is Spanish.

  26. I love armadillos and I didn’t know they didn’t like cold weather I just thought they lived in deserts. I learned a lot from this video and article I also learned that they can be different colors. 8-)

    • Hey there Wonder Friends in Mrs. Lile’s Class, Elizabeth, Mackenzie, and Jessica! Armadillos are known for burrowing, which means they dig holes in the ground and live in them. They like to sleep a lot, so they rest up in these holes! :)

      We are so excited you shared what you learned today and you predict for tomorrow’s Wonder! Way to go, keep WONDERing! :)

  27. I remember armadillos when I was out in Arizona. They were really cool mammals and I wanted to take one home in my bag. But I couldn’t sneak it on the plane.

    • Good work, Justin, Donavin, and Micaiah! It sounds like you have learned a lot from today’s armadillo Wonder, and some of you have even seen an armadillo in its natural habitat! HOW COOL! We’re so proud of you for WONDERing with us today– we love your comments! See you tomorrow, Wonder Friends! :)

  28. I have never seen an armadillo before but people have said that they are cool mammals. I would love to see an armadillo.

    • Thanks for telling us about your cool connections to our Wonder today, Kayla, Adrian, and Edgar! It’s very cool that there is an armadillo at your local zoo, too! What fun to Wonder while you visit the zoo! :)

      We look forward to WONDERing with you soon, Wonder Friends! You can check out all our Wonders from the past here: http://wonderopolis.org/wonders/ :)

  29. I liked it because they have armor so they’re like one of my favorite mammals. I wonder if they sell them at the pet store because I want one.

    • Thanks for sharing your comments today, Demetrius, Rafael, and Addy! Armadillos are super cool and we’re glad you have enjoyed WONDERing with us today! We Wonder what it would be like to wear armadillo armor as a human? That sure makes us Wonder! We hope to see you tomorrow, friends, we look forward to using our imaginations together! :)

    • Great work, Carlos and Ameilya, armadillos make us smile, too! We’re very glad you both shared your Wonder comments with us today. Stay curious and come back and visit us soon! :)

    • What a great observation, Romen! We Wonder if you have seen an armadillo up close? We hope to see one so we can take a look at their armor! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

• Where do armadillos live?
• What does armadillo mean?
• How do armadillos protect themselves?

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Try It Out

Three cheers for armadillos! Keep learning about these fascinating creatures by checking out one or more of the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • Have you ever seen an armadillo in real life? They’re curious creatures! Check out Armadillo Pictures online to see a variety of armadillos. Do you think you’d ever want an armadillo for a pet? Why or why not? What do you think would be the greatest challenge to keeping an armadillo as a pet?
  • Little is known about the giant armadillo that calls South America home. It’s a rare species that has eluded scientists for many years. Until now! Recently, scientists using modern technology were able to capture photographs of a giant armadillo and its baby. Check out Caught on Camera to see the picture and learn more about these interesting creatures!
  • Can you help out the poor armadillo? No one likes being called a “hillbilly speed bump!” Armadillos need a little help with their self-image. They also need some help figuring out how to cross the road safely! Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to create a series of roadside billboards to boost the knowledge and spirits of armadillos in your area. (Don’t worry…if you don’t have armadillos where you live, you can just pretend!) What should the billboards say? That’s up to you! Can you create an informative billboard that would help armadillos understand how to cross the road safely? (Let’s pretend your average armadillo can read, too, while we’re at it.) While you’re at it, see if you can incorporate some positive self-image statements into your billboard. Can you make armadillos feel better about themselves? What positive attributes do they have that you could emphasize? Be as wildly creative as you want! When you’re finished, be sure to post your billboard ideas on the Wonder Wall and share with your Wonder Friends on Facebook. We — and all the armadillos in Wonderopolis — can’t wait to see what you create!

Still Wondering

Use ArtsEdge’s Latin America lesson to learn more about the diverse cultures of Latin America, as represented by artists from Ecuador, Cuba, Bolivia, El Salvador, Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Texas and California. Enjoy art rich in both tradition and innovation!

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