Pink fairy armadillo

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Pink fairy armadillo[1]
Pink Fairy Armadillo (Chlamyphorus truncatus) (cropped).jpg
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Cingulata
Family: Dasypodidae
Subfamily: Euphractinae
Genus: Chlamyphorus
Harlan, 1825
Species: C. truncatus
Binomial name
Chlamyphorus truncatus
Harlan, 1825
Lesser Fairy Armadillo area.png
Pink fairy armadillo range

The pink fairy armadillo (Chlamyphorus truncatus) or pichiciego is the smallest species of armadillo (mammals of the family Dasypodidae, mostly known for having a bony armor shell).

Range and habitat[edit]

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.[3] 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.

Dietary habits[edit]

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.[3]

Physical characteristics[edit]

The pink fairy armadillo is 90-115 mm (3.5-4.5 in) long, and typically weighs about 120 g (4.2 oz).[4] 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[edit]

This fine hair has been found to be beneficial for thermoregulation in an environment with highly variable temperatures.[5] 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.[5] 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.

Burrowing lifestyle[edit]

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."[3] 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.

Threats[edit]

Pink fairy armadillo (Chlamyphorus truncatus)

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 converted to farmland increases, 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.[6] Lastly, the use of pesticides on farmlands is a huge concern because these pesticides adhere to ants, which are the armadillo’s primary source of food. If the armadillo ingests enough of these pesticide-covered ants it can be quite detrimental to the armadillo's health.

Conservation efforts[edit]

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.

This armadillo is found in several protected areas, including the Lihué Calel National Park.[2] Both national and provincial legislation is in place specifically protecting the species.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ a b c 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. 
  3. ^ a b c Borghi
  4. ^ A-Z-Animals.com. "Animal Facts, Images and Resources A-Z Animals - Animal Facts, Images and Resources". A-Z Animals. Retrieved 2014-06-16. 
  5. ^ a b Superina
  6. ^ Cuevas

External links[edit]