The pink fairy armadillo – whimsical scufflers


Image source: Mariella Superina/Paul Vogt

Bizarre creatures come in all shapes and sizes, from the catastrophically ugly (sorry batfish) to the spectacular (mantis shrimp), but few can boast the whimsical appearance of this little fella. The pink fairy armadillo (clearly named by the daughter of the scientist who discovered it) is perhaps one of the cutest critters to grace the Earth. They are endemic to Argentina and spend the majority of their time underground, probably in some sort of fairytale land where everyone floats around in bubbles and everything is always really neat.

At just 5 inches they are the smallest of this armoured species, with silky white hair underneath a pretty pink shell. They even get away with having absolute tractors for hands and feet, which if anything makes them cuter, as everyone loves watching an adorable creature struggling to walk. These are perfectly adapted for digging into incredibly hard substrates in a flash, allowing a speedy getaway when things get a little too morose in the upstairs world. As they burrow down, they compact the sand behind them using what has been so articulately named as a ‘butt plate’. Bloody Americans. (Although I suppose bottom or arse plate wouldn’t be much better). They shuffle backward in adorable little movements, squishing all the silly sand so they can scuffle forward. An addition of a weird little club tail helps them balance, altogether letting them move through sand like a knife through tough butter (a pretty quick but not overly rapid pace).

Unlike other armadillos, their shell is relatively soft and flexible (if you have ever lost a nail, it is similar to that slightly tougher skin you find underneath. A lovely simile for you there). As they play professional hide and seek as a job they don’t really need the armour, as predators have now learnt that they will never find them. Their shell is not welded to their body like most armadillos, but attached via a membrane along the spinal column. I don’t know if you’ve spent much time hanging out in narrow underground tunnels, but it tends to get a little tepid. Hence it is thought that this weakened shell allows for exothermic regulation, science chat for cooling down. The blood vessels that lie under the translucent shell dilate to allow for this, and they are also responsible for the armadillo’s endearing pink hue.

When you live in an underground fairyland there is no need to take part in scientific research for cash, hence lack of studies on these guys leaves us in the dark about what they really get up to. For all we know they could be forming a pink fairy armadillo army. Which would do no harm to anyone, ever.

Also, this has nothing to do with pink fairy armadillos, but it is a video of a generic armadillo playing, so watch it:





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