Lee Richardson Zoo

Southern three-banded armadillo

Order Cingulata – Anteaters, armadillos, and sloths
Family Dasypodidae - armadillos

Scientific name:  Tolypeutes matacus


DescriptionThe southern three-banded armadillo ranges from 8” to 12.5” in length and weigh between 1.00-1.59 kg (2.2-3.5 lbs). Armadillos are the last extant mammals that have a hard shell made from ossified dermal tissue (carapace) that covers a majority of its body. The carapace is separated by three folds of skin, which allow for flexibility and locomotion. Black to white-colored hairs may be interspersed on the carapace and underbellies. The hind limbs have five digits while forelimbs have four digits. The forelimb digits have large powerful claws used for digging and gathering food while the second, third, and fourth hind limbs digits have hoof-like claws. Unlike most other species of armadillos they have relatively short thick tails.

Home RangeSouth America particularly Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay


Habitat typeGrassland, open plains, marshland between scattered forests, where they utilize abandoned burrows of other species.



Reproductive habits: Sexual maturity is reached at an age of 9 to 12 months. The exact mating system for the species is unknown but it is believed breeding occurs between October and January, pairing of individuals occurs during this time. Although in captivity birthing occurs year round. Young are born after an approximately 120 day gestational period with only one born per year. At birth young weigh about 0.25 lbs or 113 grams. Care after birth is solely the responsibility of the female. After birth, the young are suckled by the mother for approximately 10 weeks. Young are precocial at birth, meaning they have the ability of coordinated movements like walking and rolling themselves into a ball. They are born blind and deaf until three to four weeks of age. The carapace at birth is flexible and leathery and hardens within a few days of birth.


Diet in WildArmadillos are omnivores with a varied diet including invertebrates especially ants, termites, and beetle larvae during the dry season (July to November) and fruits during the summer rains.


Diet in ZooMazuri insectivore pellets, fruit/starch and mealworms.


General InfoThe southern three-banded armadillo is a diurnal species. Three banded armadillos are the only two species of armadillo that can roll itself into a perfect spherical shape completely enclosing itself in its’ armor. The edges between the shells and extremities can be left slightly open then if touched by a predator it can snap it together like a steal trap. They walk on their hind limbs while only the tips of their foreclaws touching the ground. Even with this odd gait they have the ability to run relatively rapidly. Southern three-banded armadillos tend to be mostly solitary animals, but there have been accounts of multiple individuals being found sleeping together during the winter time and breeding season. To forage they probe the ground with their snouts and use their large front claws to tear into ant and termite nests and prise off tree bark.



Conservation Status:  The IUCN Red List of Threatened species lists the southern three-banded armadillo as near threatened with a decreasing population. Declines are due mainly to ease of hunting by humans and destruction of habitat for agriculture use.



Grzimek, Bernhard, Devra G. Kleiman, and Melissa C. MacDade. "Family: Armadillos." Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. 2nd ed. Vol. 13. Detroit: Thomson/Gale, 2004. 181-89. IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. . Nowak, Ronald M. "Xenarthra; Family Dasypodidae, Armadillos." Walker's Mammals of the World. 6th ed. Vol. 1. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1999. 158-65. "Southern Three-banded Armadillo (Tolypeutes Matacus)." Southern Three-banded Armadillo Videos, Photos and Facts. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2014.