Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Armadillo Encounter

 Florida 2013 continued

While we were out walking the boardwalk at the Visitor Center at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, I heard a rustling in the duff under the boardwalk ahead of us. Then I saw some tall grasses moving, as if being bumped by something low to the ground. I was so excited--what could it be?? I got the camera ready....

Finally, an armadillo emerged from under the boardwalk!

What an oddly adorable creature the armadillo is!

I have always wanted to see one of these bizarre animals up close. In all the trips to Florida I'd only seen one once, on the side of the highway (alive!) as we zipped along at 70 mph.

We watched as it nosed its way through the dirt and duff.

I was so happy to be able to get so close, and was amazed at how hairy they are!

We saw more of the back end than the front end.

I know nothing about these animals so I looked them up on the web. Here's what Wikipedia says about them:

There are about 20 different subspecies of armadillo living primarily in Central and South America. North America's armadillo is the nine-banded armadillo, named for the number of creases or "bands" around its mid-section. They inhabit primarily the southern states but can be found as far north as Nebraska. Prolific diggers, they are related to ant eaters and sloths, and their diets consist mainly of insects and invertebrates.

"The armor is formed by plates of dermal bone covered in relatively small, overlapping epidermal scales called "scutes", composed of bone with a covering of horn. Most species have rigid shields over the shoulders and hips, with a number of bands separated by flexible skin covering the back and flanks. Additional armor covers the top of the head, the upper parts of the limbs, and the tail. The underside of the animal is never armored, and is simply covered with soft skin and fur."

I had to include this photo, also from Wikipedia, because I had no idea the animal's anatomy was like this:

File:Nine-banded armadillo skeleton.jpg
A relic of a by-gone age for sure! The left side of the armor plate has been cut away to allow a view of its backbone.

We watched for a few minutes while it hunted grubs and other delicacies in the mud. The nine-banded armadillo prefers to live near water, so this was a perfect place for it.

Thanks to you, armadillo, for sharing part of your day with us!

Next: Back to the wildlife drive for some late afternoon birding.

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