Although armadillos have been around for 60 million years, there’s still a lot of confusion as to how they give birth to their young.
Armadillos don’t lay eggs; instead, females carry their offspring inside their wombs as they develop and give birth to live young. Although the mating season occurs in the early summer, female armadillos delay implantation so that they give birth the following spring. The armadillo gestation period lasts between four and five months, depending on the type of armadillo.
Continue reading to learn about how baby armadillos are born, what they’re called, and how many are in a litter. We’ll also discuss how armadillos get pregnant, how long their pregnancy lasts, and whether armadillos mate for life.
How Are Baby Armadillos Born?
Armadillos give birth to live young once they’ve had plenty of time to gestate.
Armadillos do not lay eggs. Egg-laying mammals are called monotreme mammals, and there are only two types of monotreme mammals left on Earth. They include the echidna, also known as the spiny anteater, and the duck-billed platypus.
How Do Armadillos Care For Their Young?
Baby armadillos don’t receive much care and attention from their parents. Female armadillos aren’t very attentive to their young, and male armadillos pay even less attention to their offspring.
The most important thing female armadillos do for their babies is to offer them plenty of nutrition. Baby armadillos are born with a weight of around 100 grams, which is less than a quarter of a pound.
Armadillos are known for their hard shell, which is technically called a carapace or osteoderm. Baby armadillos are born with a partially-formed carapace, but most of the shell’s development happens after they are born.
Their shell is still very thin and flexible when they enter the world.
To further develop and harden their carapaces, baby armadillos need plenty of phosphorus and calcium. This is what their mother offers them by providing plenty of sustenance, mostly in the form of her milk and insects.
After two months filled with impressive growth and development, the baby armadillos are ready to forage and find food for themselves.
What Is A Baby Armadillo Called?
Baby armadillos are referred to as pups. Within a few weeks of their birth, their shell or carapace begins to harden. When they’re first born, it feels like leather. Once they’re four months old, the carapace changes in color from pink to brown.
During the first two to four months of life, armadillo pups are nursed by their mother. Once they reach 12 to 15 months of age, they’re considered mature. Their lifespan can range from four to 30 years.
How Many Babies Does An Armadillo Have?
Female armadillos give birth to litters of one to 12 young. They give birth in what is called a birthing burrow. This is a burrow that can be as large as 15 feet wide.
Twin and other multiple births are very common in armadillos. Nine-banded armadillos, in particular, have a very interesting birthing pattern.
The nine-banded armadillo, or Dasypus novemcinctus, always gives birth to four identical babies, or quadruplets.
The female nine-banded armadillo produces a single egg. After the egg is fertilized, it splits into four different (but genetically identical) embryos. All four of these embryos share the placenta until they’re born.
This is quite the anomaly, and the nine-banded armadillo is the only vertebrate that does this. Other types of armadillos have more variance in their litters.
How Do Armadillos Get Pregnant?
Armadillos are not very social creatures. In fact, the only time they regularly come together is during the breeding season. This season generally starts in the early summer and can continue through the fall.
Mature armadillos set up their own home ranges, and these often have a bit of overlap with other armadillos.
Typically, male armadillos use their powerful sense of smell to find a female armadillo to pair with. Usually, the female they choose is the one whose home range has the most overlap with their own.
Male armadillos have several ways to let females know that they’re interested in mating. This begins with the male attempting to stay very close to the female at all times.
If the female is interested, she will tolerate this. But if she’s not interested, she’ll do everything in her power to get away from the male armadillo. This might even include kicking him!
Once a couple has formed, if another male armadillo approaches, the original male will rush toward him. Sometimes, he’ll chase the new male away.
In some cases, though, the two males will begin to battle, using their claws to fight each other for the female armadillo.
A male will also sniff the female he’s paired with and touch the back of her shell with his paws. Females sometimes respond by lifting and wagging their tails.
The couple will often forage for food close to each other and make soft sounds back and forth.
Once the couple mates, delayed implantation allows female armadillos to time the birth of their young for warmer spring weather.
Delayed implantation means that the female’s eggs will not implant in her uterus right away. Often, the delay lasts for three to four months.
Fascinatingly, it’s possible for nine-banded armadillos to stop the development of an embryo for as many as two years.
Generally, they only do this in cases of severe environmental stress. Once conditions improve and stress lifts, the embryo’s development begins again.
How Long Is An Armadillo Pregnant?
Female armadillos ovulate, or release an egg for fertilization, once a year. This typically happens in the early summer.
After getting pregnant and delaying implantation for a few months, the gestation period lasts for around four or five months, depending on the type of armadillo.
Altogether, the pregnancy lasts for eight or nine months. However, the armadillo’s offspring only develop during the last four or five months. The babies are most often born in the spring.
The pups generally won’t leave their burrows until a few weeks have passed. Once they come out of the burrow, though, they’re ready to begin foraging.
Armadillo pups may begin to breed as soon as the summer after they’re born, but they don’t usually reach sexual maturity until they’re two years old.
Do Armadillos Mate For Life?
Armadillos don’t mate for life, but they are considered monogamous. This means that they mate with only one other armadillo during the breeding season.
Male armadillos do not usually stick around caring for their offspring, and armadillos don’t operate as a family unit.
Female armadillos give birth to live young after carrying them inside their womb as they develop; armadillos do not lay eggs.
The armadillo mating season takes place in the early summer, but female armadillos delay implantation to time the birth of their pups for the following spring.
Depending on the type of armadillo, the gestation period lasts for four to five months.