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The official Texas State Mammal is the……

Armadillo

Texas designated the nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) as the official state small mammal in1995. A distant cousin of the sloth and the anteater, the nine-banded armadillo is the only species that occurs in North America.

A bony, scaled shell protects the armadillo from predators. Originally native to South America, the nine-banded armadillo now ranges as far north as Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Louisiana. The other twenty or so armadillo species remain in Central and South America.

The nine-banded armadillo is the size of a large house cat. It has a gray to brownish-gray body that is 15-17 inches long. Its tail tail is about 14-16 inches long. It has scaly plates called scutes that cover its head, body and tail. The plates on its shoulders and rumps are large. There are nine (sometimes fewer) narrow, jointed armor bands on its midsection that let it bend.

The armadillo has a keen sense of smell that it uses to locate prey. Most of its diet is made up of insects, grubs and worms. It will sometimes eat fruit, small reptiles and amphibians and bird eggs.

Some people think that the nine-banded armadillo curls itself into a ball when it is frightened. It doesn’t! It usually just runs away. Sometimes, when it is startled, it will jump straight up into the air before taking off running. This behavior can cause it to be hit by cars. When a car approaches, the armadillo may leap up and into the oncoming car’s bumper.

The armadillo can hold its breath for up to six minutes and it sometimes will cross shallow creeks and streams by walking underwater on the bottom to the other side. It also can inflate its intestines to help it swim across the water.

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