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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Pink Fairy Armadillo: The Elusive Beauty Of South America

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They must count as one of the cutest creatures on earth. Though they might seem large, the pink fairy armadillo reaches a maximum length of 6 inches. It is found only in central Argentina and is the smallest member of the armadillo family. And sorry, no, this fairy doesn’t have wings.

The Fairy’s Shell Is As Soft As It Looks

The Chlamyphorus truncatus, pink fairy armadillo dwells in the deserts of Argentina, a cute critter with a silky coating of light-colored hair covered by a rosy shell top. They spend almost their complete life burrowing, hunting invertebrates, and eating plants. It has been rarely seen and much less studied. Good for it though, as human contact stresses it out pretty fast.

The pink fairy armadillo has many of the attributes of the other 20 species of the family. The name comes from the Spanish for ‘little armored one,’ and it is the smallest of them all.  Their armor plating is a good defense against most predators. the pink fairy armadillo has a carapace (shell) that is thinner, softer, and more flexible and covers only about half the body.

The pink color on the shell is from the blood vessels near the surface. The fur of this tiny armadillo helps it retain its warmth. It is essential as they have a low metabolism rate and low body temperatures. The shell acts as a radiator, pumping in and out blood. This helps the pink fairy armadillo lower or push up its body temperature accordingly.

The habitat of these elusive armadillos is the vast argentine grassland where this subterranean nocturnal creature burrows with its relatively huge claws and a busy and small tractor bum. They are rarely seen by humans. but from what we know, the creature is vulnerable to climatic changes. No wonder, it rarely survives even in captivity.

Maiella Superina, a conservative biologist from the National Scientific and Technical Research Council in Argentina has been conducting research on various species of armadillos right in the habitat of the pink fairy armadillos. But she has never seen one in the wild in her 13 years of research. The only ones she comes across are those confiscated specimens or those injured in accidents.

The Pink Fairy Armadillo Is Different From The Other Members Of Its Family

Only the pink fairy armadillo has a shell that is not attached to the body. It is instead connected to a membrane passing along the spine of the creature. The underlying blood vessels of the fragile carapace can be seen and is the cause of the beautiful pink hue.

pink fairy armadillo

The shell is too fragile and flexible for it to be used as body armor, something other armadillos do. Its main purpose is to regulate the body temperature of the creature. Superina had observed that the color of the carapace changes in line with a change in environmental temperature. There is a change in blood flow to the carapace which causes the color change.

Exposing larger amounts of blood to the outside environment, be it soil or air, brings down the body temperature. Draining blood from the carapace helps in retaining body temperature. It greater surface to total volume ratio of this armadillo helps it to bring down its body temperature more rapidly. That is one reason that the large polar bears are found in the colder regions of the earth, and the small ones like the pink fairy armadillo live in the forests of Argentina.

Read: Shrinking Animals: An Ornithologist Reveal That Birds Are Shrinking

It spends most of its time underground and is an expert digger burrowing 6 inches under the surface. Its enormous claws are suited to that purpose though it also makes it hard for the creature to walk on a hard surface.

This unique species of armadillo has a tail that acts as an extra limb to help in balance. Its butt plate also compacts the dug soil as it moves forward. This helps to clear the space ahead of them and also strengthens the wall of the burrow.

Read: Nature Exploitation By Humans Has Killed 2/3rd Of Animal Population In The Last 50 Years

The elusive nature of this species of Argentine armadillos has made it difficult for scientists to even determine if the creature is endangered or thriving deep beneath our feet. The former is possibly closer to the truth as human encroachment has destroyed its natural habitat to a great extent.




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