The southern three-banded armadillo and the other member of the genus Tolypeutes, the Brazilian three-banded armadillo, are the only species of armadillos capable of rolling into a complete ball to defend themselves. The three characteristic bands that cover the back of the animal allow it enough flexibility to fit its tail and head together, allowing it to protect its underbelly, limbs, eyes, nose and ears from predators. The shell covering its body is armored and the outer layer is made out of keratin, the same protein that builds human fingernails. They are typically a yellow or brownish color and are smaller than many other species of armadillos, ranging in size from about 9 to 13 inches when fully grown. Unlike most armadillos, they are not fossorial.
The three-banded armadillo has a long, sticky, straw-like pink tongue that allows it to gather up and eat many different species of insects, typically ants and termites. In captivity, armadillos also eat foods such as fruits and vegetables.
The species is threatened by habitat destruction from conversion of its native Dry Chaco to farmland, and from hunting for food and the pet trade.
^ abcdAbba, A., Cuellar, E., Meritt, D., Porini, G., Superina, M. & Members of the IUCN SSC Edentate Specialist Group (2008). Tolypeutes matacus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 30 December 2008.