Active at dusk and dawn, the armadillo uses its excellent sense of smell  and powerful claws to forage for insects and worms.

What They Eat

Armadillos eat mainly ants and termites that they get by probing in the ground, under bark and into nests. They use their sticky, strap-like tongue to grab a meal.

Where They Live

This armadillo is found in grasslands and marshes in South America, including Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.

What They Do

This is the only armadillo that can completely enclose itself by rolling into a sphere.  The sides of the two large shells are free from the skin allowing room for the head, legs, and tail to fit into when the animal rolls up into a ball. Usually it leaves a small space between a section of its armor, which it forcefully closes on the hand, finger or paw of a would-be predator.

How They’re Doing

Due to habitat loss and hunting, populations of southern three-banded armadillos are in decline.  They are listed as near threatened.

Where in the World

South America


Grasslands, marshes

Conservation Status


Animal Facts

Length: up to 13 inches long
Weight: 2-3.5 pounds
Lifespan: up to 19 years in zoos

Taxonomic Category


Where at the Zoo

Tropics Trail

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  • The southern three-banded armadillo can smell worms as deep as 8 inches underground.
  • The three-banded armadillo is a member of the order  Xenarthra, which means “without teeth.” The sloth and anteater are also in this  order, but only the anteater is strictly toothless.  Armadillos have simple, rootless molars that  grow throughout their lives.
  • Most individuals have three movable bands but some have only  two bands and others have four.
  • Armadillo head plates are unique to each armadillo, like  human fingerprints.
  • “Armadillo” is a word of Spanish origin, referring to the  armor-like covering of these animals.
  • Armadillo species with unusual names include the pink fairy  armadillo and the screaming hairy armadillo
  • Unlike other armadillo species which dig burrows to shelter  in, the 3-banded armadillo hides under a bush or in undergrowth by day. It  often uses the abandoned burrows of anteater

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Although the southern three-banded armadillo is still abundant in Paraguay, it is decreasing in other parts of its range, and has completely disappeared from Buenos Aires Province. Some populations can be found in protected areas, but the species as a whole is listed as near threatened. This is primarily due to habitat loss and hunting. The southern three-banded armadillo is easier than other species for humans to hunt for food and has a slow reproductive rate.

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