Common across much of the Southeastern United States, armadillos attract a bit of a cult following of their oddly appealing appearance and lifestyle.
From an engineering standpoint, the armadillo is an exceptional creature.
The heavy plates that cover its head, torso, and tail are unique among North American mammals and present foes with a formidable barrier. And since the plates are jointed across the animal’s midsection, the armadillo can curl itself into a ball for added protection.
But what happens to the armadillo when it hits the water? Do those same heavy plates become a burden? Does this unusual mammal sink or swim?
The correct answer is both, sometimes. Just as it’s evolved armor for protection, the armadillo has come up with a unique way to carry that weight while in the water.
When small streams and ponds must be crossed, the armadillo compensates for the excess weight of its plates by taking deep gulps of air to inflate its intestines. Thus inflated, the intestines make the armadillo buoyant enough to swim short distances.
And if gulping additional air is just too much work, the armadillo can simply walk across the bottom of the stream or pond like a deep-sea diver wearing lead weights.
So next time you see an armadillo around water, keep an eye out and see which option is uses.
P.S. Here’s a bonus fact— the name “armadillo” originated with the Spanish conquistadores who named it “the little man in armor”.
Ever seen an armadillo in the wild? Please share your stories with us below.