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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 47.djvu/366

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354
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

THE ARMADILLO AND ITS ODDITIES.
By CHARLES H. COE.

THOSE who have seen the armadillo only in pictures, or stuffed specimens in museums, can form but a slight idea how odd and interesting the animal is in life. With an ardent love of natural history, and with exceptional opportunities for indulging my tastes in this direction, I have been the possessor of many pet animals; but none, I can truly affirm, have interested me more by their odd forms and curious habits than a pair of armadillos.

I named my armored pets Jack and Jill, for they are a perfect pair, male and female, now nearly three years old. They were brought from Brazil, having been captured there by men who make it their business, with the aid of native hunters, to secure rare forms of animal life for menageries, zo├Âlogical gardens, and private fanciers.

So rarely are armadillos seen in captivity, and so little has been written about them, that I am sure a reasonably full and detailed description of the animal in general and my pets in particular will prove interesting and instructive.

The armadillo belongs to two different genera, known as Dasypus and Tatusia, the former name being applied to several South American species, and the latter to those which inhabit North America. They all belong to the order Edentata, or toothless animals, which order also includes the sloths and ant-eaters. All these are characterized by the absence of front teeth, while the molars or grinders are not true teeth, being without regular roots or enamel.

Long ages before man appeared upon the earth, as we learn from fossil remains found in its strata, this order was represented by gigantic forms now known as the glyptodon and the megatherium. The former, a huge creature sometimes thirteen feet in length, was related to the armadillo, but its armor was in one solid piece instead of plates and movable bands. The megatherium ("great beast"), a still more enormous animal of the ancient world, was not covered with armor, but was nearly allied to the sloth. It often attained a length of over eighteen feet.

The musical Spanish name armadillo, meaning "little armed one," is applied to many species, from the smallest, no larger than a rat, to the giant armadillo, which measures four and a half feet in length from tip to tip, the tail being eighteen inches long.

All the species are confined to the American continent, ranging from southern Texas to the Argentine Republic. Some species inhabit the low coasts of Peru and Chili, others the elevated