Most species of Dasypodidae are polygynous. Males and females of some species engage in courtship prior to mating. The best accounts of courtship are documented for nine-banded armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus) and, to a lesser extent, southern three-banded armadillos (Tolypeutes matacus).
Male and female D. novemcinctus pair when the female is in estrus. Males of this species pair with 1 to 3 females in a single breeding season, while females pair with only 1 to 2 males. Mate pairings last anywhere from 1 to 4.5 months. Breeding male members of the species maintain prime living territory through aggression.
In D. novemcinctus, the male member of a mating pair forages with the female for several days prior to mating. Periodically, the male attempts to mount the female, or touches her back with his claws, causing her to lift her tail. Once she lifts her tail, the male sniffs her anal region to detect changes in anal secretions that indicate her sexual interest. When she is sexually receptive, the female lies flat on the ground as the male sniffs and licks the area near her anus. In order to mate, the female must flip onto her back so the male can mount her without her dorsal armor getting in the way. The male scratches at the female’s dorsal armor and continues to lick and scratch near the anus until the female fully turns over. Copulation lasts anywhere from 3 to 15 minutes.
Southern three-banded armadillos (T. matacus) also form mating pairs during the breeding season, though the duration of this pairing is not known. Prior to copulation, the male softly touches the female’s dorsal armor to assess her sexual receptiveness.
Six-banded armadillos (Euphractus sexcinctus) in captivity do not display mate-pairing behavior. Instead, males and females randomly meet while foraging, nuzzle, and then mate. Males and females do not closely associate before or after periods of copulation.
Mating System: polygynous
Armadillos are dioecious, iteroparous, and viviparous. The age at which males and females become sexually mature varies with species. Male and female large hairy armadillos (Chaetophractus villosus) reach sexual maturity after 9 months of age. Male Dasypus novemcinctus become sexually mature about 6 months after birth, while females become sexually mature after about 1 year. Male and female giant armadillos (Priodontes maximus) and Pichi armadillos (Zaedyus pichiy) reach sexual maturity between 9 and 12 months of age.
The breeding season for most species of Dasypodidae begins during the spring and summer months, between April and June. Some species in captivity are able to breed anytime throughout the year. Gestation period also varies with species. For individuals of the genus Dasypus, gestation is extended due to embryonic diapause. Embryonic diapause is a delay in embryo implantation that lasts anywhere from 4 months to 2 years depending on the species. This delay is advantageous, as it allows a female to give birth during times of seasonal and environmental prosperity, when chances of offspring survival are greater.
In most species, female armadillos produce a litter of 1 to 3 offspring, usually born between the months of February and July. However, species of the genus Dasypus undergo a process called monozygotic polyembryony, in which 1 egg produces between 2 and 12 identical embryos depending on the species. All offspring born from this process are the same sex.
Gestation period and litter size vary with species. Small hairy armadillos (Chaetophractus vellerosus) have a gestation period of about 65 days and give birth to 1 to 2 offspring. Large hairy armadillos (Chaetophractus villosus) are unique in that they are able to give birth more than once a year, producing 1 to 2 offspring in each litter. The gestation period of C. villosus is 60 to 75 days. Giant armadillos (Priodontes maximus) have a gestation period of about 4 months and produce 1 or 2 offspring per year. Southern three-banded armadillos (Tolypeutes matacus) produce 1 offspring per breeding season, though timing of gestation is unknown. Six-banded armadillos (Euphractus sexcinctus) produce 1 to 3 offspring after a gestation period of about 60 days. Pichi armadillos (Zaedyus pichiy) have a gestation period of about 60 days, after which 1 to 3 offspring are born. Data on litter size and gestation period for most other species are not yet available.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous ; delayed implantation ; embryonic diapause
Depending on the species, armadillos are precocial or altricial. Juvenile nine-banded armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus) weigh 28.6 to 114 grams at birth, are born with their eyes open and able to walk fairly quickly. Newborns of this species possess pink leathery skin. After several days, the skin solidifies to form the dorsal armor. About 20 days after birth, D. novemcinctus move around outside of their nests, and within 2 to 3 weeks, they are able to leave the burrow for short periods of time. Weaning occurs 4 to 5 months after birth. Males of this species do not provide care to their offspring.
Southern three-banded armadillos (Tolypeutes matacus) also produce precocial young. Newborns are very similar in appearance to adults. Newborns weigh on average 113 g, possess developed claws, and have scute marks. Their eyes remain closed, and they are unable to hear for the first 3 to 4 weeks of life. On the day their are born, however, they are able roll into the protective sphere that is characteristic of the species.
Some species, such as giant armadillos (Priodontes maximus), possess a thick skin at birth but are blind and need their mother's help in order to survive. Weaning in this species occurs between 4 and 5 months after birth. Weaning times known for other species are estimated to be about 6 weeks (Zaedyus pichiy), and 7 to 8 weeks (Chaetophractus vellerosus).
A high level of female parental investment is noted among six-banded armadillos (Euphractus sexcinctus). Newborns are soft and vulnerable at birth. Mothers are extremely protective of their offspring, and if they sense a threat, they become aggressive. Mothers may pick up their young and move them to a safer burrow, if necessary.
Parental Investment: altricial ; precocial ; female parental care ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); post-independence association with parents; extended period of juvenile learning
- The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors
- bibliographic citation
- Capizzo, A.; E. Moses; E. Shirley and P. Myers 2013. "Dasypodidae" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Dasypodidae.html
- Anthony Capizzo, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
- Erika Moses, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
- Ethan Shirley, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
- Phil Myers, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
- Gail McCormick, Special Projects