On June 16th 1995, the nine-banded armadillo was officially declared as the state animal of Texas. It was named as the Small State Mammal, and the Large State Mammal was the longhorn. The House Current Resolution, naming both these animals as the state mammals, was signed by the then governor George W Bush. The resolution says that these animals were voted through a mock vote by elementary school children all over the state, which was a state tradition for years.
The most common of all armadillos, this animal belongs to the family of the Dasypodidae. It is mostly found in North, Central, and South America. It immigrated to Texas in the 19th century, and as of now, it is quite widely-seen. Although it is called nine-banded, not all individual armadillos have more than seven bands on their armored bodies. This is a very environmentally-adaptable animal, and can survive very comfortably in scrub, woods, open prairies, and tropical rainforests. It lives up to 12 to 15 years in the wild.
This Texan mammal has a distinct shell casing made out of bone. It has two large shell casings covering the shoulders and the rump, with seven or nine bands in the middle. However, when the armadillo is born, the armored shell is soft and leathery, and hardens once it has reached its full adult weight of 8 to 15 lbs. Its total body length is about 15-17 inches, and the male and female armadillo weigh about 11-17 lbs and 8-13 lbs respectively. It has strong claws and a long, tapered, 14-16 inch tail which is completely covered by bony rings. It has 30 or 32 peg-shaped teeth and a very long tongue.
The nine-banded Armadillo is a solitary, nocturnal animal. It becomes more active during the night, twilight, or just before sunrise. It can dig some really deep burrows that are roughly 8 inches wide, 7 feet deep, and 25 feet long. It is highly-territorial and always marks its territory. However, while females are exclusive with their territories, males tend to overlap into those of others. Its body has an excellent mechanism to get across lakes, ponds, and marshes. It either inflates its stomach and intestines with air and floats across the water, or just sinks down and walks across the bottom, using its sharp claws. Its tail helps it to leap nearly three to four feet into the air; this leap particularly comes in handy to scare off predators who come quite close to it. It does not curl up into a ball as believed, but can easily leap and outrun its predators.
This animal is both an omnivore and an insectivore in its dietary habits. It digs erratically with its snout and claws to loosen the soil, and uses its long, sticky tongue to catch beetles, ants, termites, worms, grubs, and caterpillars. It may occasionally supplement its diet with amphibians, small reptiles, fungi, tubers, and carrion, which it eats using its leaf-shaped, peg-like teeth.
This animal reaches sexual maturity by the time it is one year of age, and the female is capable of producing up to 56 young ones over the course of her life. It has a breeding system that stands apart from many other mammals, even of its own class. The mating usually takes place in a burrow from July to August in the Northern Hemisphere and November to January in the Southern Hemisphere. Although a single egg gets fertilized, implantation is delayed by 3 to 4 months. The gestation period is about four months, during which identical quadruplets are split, with each developing its own placenta so that blood and nutrients are not shared between them. The amazing thing about the nine-banded armadillo is that it will always gives birth to the same gender quadruplets from a single egg. After birth, the quadruplets remain in the burrow with their mother for a period of three months, where they live off the mother's milk. Another three to four months are spent foraging with the mother, eventually leaving her after six months to a year.
One of the Texas state symbols, the nine-banded armadillo is listed as 'Least Concern' as it is found abundantly all over the state. It was hunted for its meat during the depression. However, since it was capable of reproducing every year, the numbers of this animal did not dwindle.