Animal Spotlight: Pink Fairy Armadillo

Taxonomy:

c-truncatus-frontal
Photo: Mariella Superina
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Cingulata
  • Family: Dasypodidae
  • Genus: Chlamyphorus
  • Species: Truncatus
  • Other Names: Lesser Fairy Armadillo, Pichiciego

 

  • Height: 90mm – 115mm (3.5 in – 4.5 in)
  • Weight: 120 g (4.2 oz)
  • Estimated Average Lifespan: 5 – 10 years

The pink fairy armadillo is the smallest out of twenty armadillo species that is only found in central Argentina. They are nocturnal species that are found in dry grassland and sandy plains with shrubby vegetation. This armadillo lives a solitary life and stays underground to stay protected, only feeding at night. Their diet consists of ant larvae and ants, but will also feed on worms, snails, and other insects. Plants and roots are also supplemented into these creatures’ diets.

It’s important to note that there is not much known about these critters because of their elusive nature. On the IUCN list, the pink fairy armadillo is listed as “data deficit” due to the lack of information. Nothing is known about its population size or trend, but a reduction in sightings has been reported (Superina, 2006).

Physical Characteristics:

pink-fairy-armadillo_msuperina
Photo: Mariella Superina

The two most notable physical characteristics of the pink fairy armadillo are its pale rose shell and its large claws.

Like all armadillos, the pink fairy armadillo can curl up to protect its vulnerable soft underside with its shell. But, unlike all the other armadillos, the pink fairy’s shell is not fully attached to its body. Instead, it’s connected with a membrane that runs along the spinal column. The blood vessels under the membrane are what causes the armadillo’s shell to appear pink.

In addition, the shell is also thought to help with thermoregulation and acts like a radiator. The pink fairy can control the amount of surface area is exposed to the environment in order to gain or lose heat, due to the underlying blood vessels. By pumping blood in and out of the shell, the armadillo can raise or lower its core temperature.

The process is similar to the fennec fox and its ears. Pumping more blood lowers the overall body temperature but doing the opposite would preserve the overall body temperature.

The pink fairy is also an impressive digger due to its sturdy claws and can bury itself in a matter of seconds if it feels threatened. The armadillo has two massive sets of claws on its front and hind limbs to help dig in compact soil quickly. It also aids in unearthing ant hills, its primary food source.

Threat/Conservation:32_map

The predominant threats are habitat loss due to extensive agriculture and ranching, predation by domestic cats and dogs, and the black market where they are sold to be pets. A large majority of specimens removed from the wild do not survive, typically dying within 8 days.

The known populations live in a number of protected areas in Argentina. Furthermore, national and provincial legislation provide protection. Nevertheless, distribution models suggest that this species has the lowest percentage of its range (only 1.7%) within Argentinian National Parks.

Despite knowing the threats, little information is available about the actual effects on the population in addition to its population status, demography, and ecology. The pink fairy armadillo remains a priority for further survey work.

Interesting Facts:

  • Their torpedo-shaped body helps reduce drag it may encounter while working in underground tunnels.
  • Pink fairy armadillos have fluffy white underfur.
  • The pichi, another desert armadillo, can get a skin disease if exposed to humidity and water for prolonged periods. The pink fairy is also considered to be susceptible to the same disease for the same reason.
  • Its butt plate compacts the dirt behind the armadillo as it advances forward, thought to prevent tunnel collapses.
  • The pink fairy armadillo relies on its sense of touch and hearing to coordinate.
  • They will use their shell to act as a plug to its burrow.
  • This critter’s enormous claws are so large that it has a difficult time walking on hard surfaces.
  • The armadillos represent 22.5% of the phylogenetic diversity of the family Dasypodidae at the genus level.

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Further Reading + References

Absurd Creature of the Week: Pink Fairy Armadillo Crawls Out of the Desert and Into Your Heart

IUCN: Pink Fairy Armadillo

Pink Fairy Armadillo

Chlamyphorus truncatus

Can You Dig this Pink Armadillo?

Pink Fairy Armadillo

Want to read other animal spotlights?

Animal Spotlight: Pangolin

Animal Spotlight: Polar Bears

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