The Pichi (Zaedyus pichiy), also known as the Dwarf Armadillo, has a head and body length of 260 to 335 mm (10.2 to 13.2 in) and a tail length of 100 to 140 mm (3.9 to 5.5 in). It is found in Argentina from the Provinces of Mendoza, San Luís and Buenos Aires south to the Río Santa Cruz, from the Atlantic Coast of Argentina west to the Andean grasslands of Argentina and Chile. In Chile it is found from Region V south to the Straits of Magellan.
The shell of Z. pichiy is dark brown with whitish lateral edges, and the tail is yellowish. Posterior edges of the dorsal shell plates are thickly set with fine black hairs, and longer yellowish bristles are interspersed. The underparts are covered with coarse yellowish hairs. The claws on all feet are well-developed. Z. pichiy has small ears. The animal resembles Euphractus, but is more closely related to Chaetophractus.
Z. pichiy digs burrows in open areas, on the base of small bushes on firm, sandy grounds. Z. pichiy draws in its feet to anchor the shell to the ground as a defense mechanism, like Chaetophractus. The animal shelters in shallow dens. The diet consists of insects, worms, and any small animal food it can find, including carrion. Z. pichiy is also reported to eat plant material, especially seed pods of the Prosopis tree.
Z. pichiy is solitary. The animal has been reported to hibernate, at least in some localities. Local people prize the animal as a food item, and it is sometimes used as a house pet.
Z. pichiy breeds year-round. Gestation period is 60 days. One to three young may be born, although the number is usually two. Young are weaned at 6 months, and are sexually mature at 9 months to 1 year. One specimen lived 9 years in captivity.
- Meritt, D.A., Jr. and K. Benirschke. 1973. The chromosomes of Zaedyus pichiy ameghino. Mammalian Chromosomes Newsletter 14: 108-109.
- Nowak, R.M. 1999. Walker’s Mammals of the World, 6th edition. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD. 158-168.
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