Found in Central Argentina where it inhabits dry grasslands and sandy plains with thorn bushes and cactus, the Pink Fairy Armadillo (Chlamyphorus truncatus) has a head and body length of 84 to 117 mm (3.3 to 4.6 in) and a tail length of 27 to 35 mm (1.1 to 1.4 in).
C. truncatus is the smallest of the armadillos. The shell is pale pink in color, anchored to two large, rough prominences in the bone above the eyes and by a narrow ridge of flesh along the spine. The legs, undersides of the body and under the shell is covered with soft, fine white hairs. All bands of the shell across the neck and body move freely. C. truncatus is the only armadillo with the dorsal shell almost completely separated from the body. A bone plate in the shell at the rear of the animal is securely attached to the pelvic bones. The tail is spatula-shaped, and protrudes from a notch in the rear plate. The tail cannot be raised, and as a result drags behind the animal as it walks. Females posses two mammae.
C. truncatus is nocturnal, and sluggish except when burrowing. It can burrow rapidly enough to completely bury itself within seconds when threatened. When digging, the animal supports its hind end using the tail, and quickly throws dirt underneath and behind itself, using the front feet to pile up dirt beneath it and the hind feet to shove the dirt away. C. truncatus often uses the flat armor plate at the rear to plug the opening of the burrow, like a cork.
C. truncatus burrows are often found near an anthill, preferably in dry soil that feels uncomfortably warm to the human hand. C. truncatus will leave the burrow if it rains enough to moisten the soil.
C. truncatus feeds primarily on ants and ant larvae; they are also known to eat worms, snails, roots and other plant material.
C. truncatus does not do well in captivity. No specimens of C. truncatus have ever survived more than four years in captivity. C. truncatus is classified as endangered by the IUCN and the USDI (1980), due to habitat reduction by agriculture and predation by domestic dogs.
- Nowak, R.M. 1999. Walker’s Mammals of the World, 6th edition. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD. 158-168.
Pink fairy armadillos (or pichiciegos) are found in the warm sandy plains of Argentina.
Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )
The pink fairy armadillo is the smallest member of the armadillo family, measuring only about five to six inches in length. It is also the only armadillo in which the dorsal shell is almost separate from the body.
Habitat and Ecology
These armadillos prefer to burrow in very dry soil. They leave their burrows if it is moistened by rainfall. These animals often burrow near anthills, so that they can be close to their food source.
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland
These armadillos are omnivores, but they feed mainly on ants. Occasionally they eat worms, snails, and various plant and root materials.
Life History and Behavior
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Baby armadillos resemble their parents, but their shells do not completely harden until they are full grown.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Chlamyphorus truncatus
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2008Data Deficient(IUCN 2008)
- 2008Data Deficient
- 2006Near Threatened(IUCN 2006)
- 2006Near Threatened
- 1994Insufficiently Known(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Insufficiently Known(IUCN 1990)
- 1988Insufficiently Known(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
- 1986Insufficiently Known(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
- 1982Insufficiently Known(Thornback and Jenkins 1982)
Date Listed: 06/02/1970
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10)
Where Listed: Entire
Population location: Entire
Listing status: E
For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Chlamyphorus truncatus , see its USFWS Species Profile
The pink fairy armadillos are declining in number due to the spread of human civilization, and they are considered quite rare.
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: data deficient
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Not much is known about their economic importance to humans or other animals.
Pink fairy armadillo
Range and habitat
Pink fairy armadillos are endemic to central Argentina and have been found primarily in the Mendoza province as well as in Buenos Aires, San Juan, and La Pampa. This narrow range contains a unique and crucial habitat for this animal. It lives in dry grasslands, sandy plains, and dunes. The Mendozan area consists of both warm and cold seasons, and likewise, a wet and dry season. These varying average temperatures are things the armadillo must be able to adapt to. An average high during the warm season is approximately 80 °F and the cold season might only have a high of 60 °F with an average low of 36 °F.
The pink fairy armadillo’s main source of food consists of ants and larvae it finds underground while digging or actively searching for food. While those are its primary sources of food, the armadillos are known to eat worms, snails, and other insects. If these insects and invertebrates can’t be found plant leaves and roots make a good secondary dietary option for their underground lifestyle.
The pink fairy armadillo is 90-115 mm (3.5-4.5 in) long, and typically weighs about 120 g (4.2 oz). It is the smallest species of armadillo and, like most armadillos, is a nocturnal placental mammal. However, unlike other armadillos, the pink fairy armadillo has very visible long, white, silky hair sticking out from under its armor.
Thermoregulation and external shell
This fine hair has been found to be beneficial for thermoregulation in an environment with highly variable temperatures. Night temperatures in Argentinian plains can get very low, and since the armadillo is nocturnal it needs this fur to conserve heat while outside its burrow. Armadillos are well-known for leathery shells covering the majority of its dorsal side. The pink fairy armadillo has this characteristic as well, but its shell is much softer and more flexible. The armadillo receives its name due to the array of blood vessels found underneath the shell that give it its pink-colored hue. Though the shell is close enough to the body for these blood vessels to be seen through the armor, this protective part of the animal is only attached via a thin membrane along the spinal column of the animal. The armored shell consists of 24 bands that allow the animal to curl up in a ball, and the armor is flattened in the posterior portion of the animal so that it can compress dirt behind it as it is digging. This compression strategy is thought to help prevent tunnel collapses. Lastly, the shell itself is also thought to help with thermoregulation. Since the underlying blood vessels are so close to the surface, the animal can control the amount of surface area exposed to the environment in order to gain or lose heat.
The armadillo has two massive sets of claws on its front and hind limbs that do a wonderful job of digging burrows in compacted soil very quickly. The pink fairy armadillo is nicknamed the "sand-swimmer" because it is said that it can "burrow through the ground as fast as a fish can swim in the sea." These claws are so big that the armadillo actually has a very difficult time walking on a hard surface. Along with these unique traits, the pink fairy armadillo has greatly reduced eyes and relies highly on touch and hearing to coordinate around. It also has a torpedo-shaped body in order to reduce the amount of drag it may encounter while working in underground tunnels. It also has a thick, hairless tail that it uses for balance and stability while using its other limbs to dig.
Due to its subterranean lifestyle, the armadillo is forced to leave its burrows when heavy storms roll in due to the threat of drowning and the risk of wetting its fur. If wet the armadillo cannot properly thermo-regulate and could experience hypothermia during night hours. Once above ground during a rainstorm the armadillo is subject to an array of predators, mainly the coyote, which can easily get to it since it is not able to burrow back to safety. Habitat loss is also a large issue for these animals. As the numbers of acres are converted to farmland, the armadillo’s burrows not only get plowed over, but the land is no longer habitable for them. The animals face domestic dogs and cats that forage in their burrows as well as wild boars doing the same. Lastly, the use of pesticides on farmlands is a huge concern because those pesticides get all over ants, which are the armadillo’s primary source of food. If it ingests enough of these pesticide-covered ants it can be quite detrimental to their health.
In 2006, the armadillo was placed in the near-threatened category on the IUCN Red List, but due to the lack of sightings anywhere, it was moved to the data deficient category in 2008 because there was simply not enough data to know whether or not they were even endangered. Due to their highly subterranean lifestyle, scientists have hardly gotten to experience these animals at work in the wild. Researchers have found that this animal is highly subject to stress when taken out of its natural environment. Sudden changes in environmental temperatures as well as food diets have led to a large amount of unsuccessful attempts at raising these animals in captivity. Many of the armadillos have died simply during the transportation process from its wild habitat, and many more have only survived several days in captivity.
- Gardner, A. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M, eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Superina, M., Abba, A. M. & Roig, V. G. (2014). "Chlamyphorus truncatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
- A-Z-Animals.com. "Animal Facts, Images and Resources A-Z Animals - Animal Facts, Images and Resources". A-Z Animals. Retrieved 2014-06-16.
- Borghi, C. E, C. M. Campos, S. M. Giannoni, V. E. Campos, C. Sillero-Zubiri. 2011. Updated Distribution of the Pink Fairy Armadillo, Chlamyphorus truncatus, the World’s Smallest Armadillo. Sloth and Armadillo Specialist Group 1:14-19.
- Cuevas, M. E, A. Novillo, C. Campos, M. A. Dacar & R. A. Ojeda. 2010. Food habits and impact of rooting behaviour of the invasive wild boar, Sus scrofa, in a protected area of the Monte Desert, Argentina. Journal of Arid Environments 74: 1582–1585. CrossRef
- Superina, M. 2006. New Information on Population Declines in Pink Fairy Armadillos. Sloth and Armadillo Specialist Group 7:48-50.
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