Creatures of the Amazon
The Giant Armadillo

By Mike Collis

Priodontes maximus

Armadillo is the Spanish word meaning “Little Armoured One” but the Giant Armadillo is the largest of all the armadillos and could not at all be considered “little”. The Giant Armadillo can grow up to 5 feet in length and weigh up to 130 lbs. The Giant Armadillo population covers a wide area. Although most are found in the Amazon Basin its territory stretches from North Eastern Venezuela and South to parts of Northern Argentina. Its habitat is varied and they have been found in floodplains, tropical and subtropical rainforests, dry woodlands and even up to 1500 feet above sea level. A large population of termites and ants is a prerequisite for Giant Armadillos inhabiting an area. It is thought that they live in an area of about 2 square miles. Once a Giant Armadillo encounters a termite mound it will completely consume all its inhabitants. It is thought that Giant Armadillos can swim but generally they stick to dry land. They are usually loners only meeting up with others to mate. They are nocturnal and spend the daytime in burrows which they dig with their strong legs and extra long claws. The Giant Armadillo can stand on its hind legs and reach into the higher parts of termite mounds if it has to. Usually when they have destroyed a termite mound they bury themselves beneath it and stay there for some time before moving on.

The Giant Armadillo has a bony shell which covers most of its body, its head and other extremities can be hidden underneath the shell when attacked by a predator. They also have a very big central claw much like the Giant Anteater. The upper parts of the shell are dark grey and the lower parts separated by a dark band is much lighter. The body covered by the shell is pink and wrinkly and the tail and legs are covered in scales.

Very little is known about the mating of the Giant Armadillo but after a gestation period of about 4 months usually 1 or 2 babies are born. The young depend on the mother for up to 6 months after which time they are independent. Giant Armadillos (both sexes) reach sexual maturity at about 1 year old. It appears that after mating the males have no further interest in their offspring. The penis of the male is up to 50% of its body length so it can reach the genitals of females under the shell. The Giant Armadillo is on the Endangered List. Encroachment by humans into its territory are a big factor in this, but local indigenous people also kill them for its meat. Its natural predators are the Jaguar and the Puma.

It is generally believed that Giant armadillos can live up to 15 years.
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