Nine-banded Armadillo

Associated Smithsonian Expert: Darrin P. Lunde, M.A.

Darrin Lunde on an expedition to the Bandalla Hills of South Sudan in the summer of 2013

Courtesy of Oliver Bench

Darrin Lunde is Collections Manager in the Division of Mammals at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The Mammal Collection is the largest collection of its kind in the world. Darrin started his career by building his own natural history museum when he was just ten years old, and by the time he went to college, he had mastered specimen preservation. After graduating from Cornell University, Darrin was hired by the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where he stayed for twenty years joining field expeditions to the remote corners of South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. He has discovered dozens of new species and shed light on hundreds of other lesser known mammals. Darrin earned a Master of Arts from the City University of New York and much of his interest in museums stems from having grown up in "nature deprived" New York City. To Darrin, museum collections are an important link to nature, and he is driven by the thought that in another century museums may be our only connection to the wild animals we take for granted today. At the Smithsonian, Darrin continues a program of active field work with his goal being to illuminate the rich diversity of mammals with which we still share the world.

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This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws.

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Large hairy armadillo (Chaetophractus villosus) rolled up into a defensive ball
Courtesy of David Blank, Animal Diversity Web, Cc-BY-NC-SA


About Armadillos (Order Cingulata): Body Covering

An armadillo is protected by plates that overlap to make body and head armor. The plates are made of bone, wrapped in a leathery skin and separated by soft skin that allows the armadillo to bend. Despite their resemblance to armored tanks, armadillos are vulnerable to predation. Black bears, alligators, coyotes, and humans prey on adults, while the smaller, softer juveniles are eaten by hawks and eagles. When threatened, some species roll up in a ball to protect their unarmored bellies. The sharp claws of armadillos may also help them repel predators. Their claws are specialized for digging burrows. When cornered, an armadillo will retreat to its burrow and brace itself against the sides. Its tail is long and slippery, making it a challenge for a predator to pull it out. Armadillos also take advantage of their shrubby habitats by dashing into thorny bushes to take cover. They are surprisingly fast runners on their short legs.