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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about the official mammal of the state of Texas, the armadillo.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood

(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: Take a pig about the size of a possum and put a turtle shell on for a saddle, and you'll get something close to the armadillo. There are 20 species of the somewhat improbable armadillo throughout Central and South America, but in the U.S. you'll see only one: the nine-banded armadillo. The Conquistadors of Spain named the creatures for the armored plates, called scutes, that cover their backs. These plates are the last lines of defense against predators. But contrary to popular belief, the nine-banded armadillo can't roll itself into a ball to escape predators. Only its three-banded cousin can do that. The nine-banded armadillo has another tactic: If cornered, it will spring into the air to startle a predator. And when crossing a stream, an armadillo can either sink to the bottom and walk, or fill its chest cavity with air to help it float and swim to the other side. Texans find this creature especially charming. In fact, in the Lone Star State, the armadillo holds the honorable title of official state mammal. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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