Euphractinaefairy armadillos and pichiciegos

Diversity

The subfamily Euphractinae is composed of three genera and five species. Two of the three genera are monospecific: g. Zaedyus and g. Euphractus. The members of Euphractinae range from 22.0 to 49.5 cm in length and 0.257 to 6.5 kg in weight (Abba, 2015; Redford & Wetzel, 1985; Eisenberg & Redford, 1989; Delsuc, 2001). (Abba, et al., 2015; Delsuc, et al., 2001; Eisenberg and Redford, 1989; Redford and Wetzel, 1985)

All members of the Euphractinae are characterized by their hair, hence the name hairy armadillos. All members also show sexual dimorphism with females being smaller than males. The members all build burrows for shelter, rearing young, and mating (Abba, 2015; Redford & Wetzel, 1985; Eisenberg & Redford, 1989; Delsuc, 2001). (Abba, et al., 2015; Delsuc, et al., 2001; Eisenberg and Redford, 1989; Redford and Wetzel, 1985)

Geographic Range

All members of Euphractinae are endemic to the savannas of South America. Their range extends from Northern Chile and Bolivia to the Santa Cruz province of southern Argentina. They are found in Bolivia, western Paraguay, and Argentina (Abba, 2015; Eisenberg & Redford, 1989). (Abba, et al., 2015; Eisenberg and Redford, 1989)

Habitat

The members of Euphractinae inhabit dry landscapes of varying elevation. This consists of mainly savannas, but it can include forest edges and other open fields. This is due to the reliance of hairy armadillos on plant material for food. Hairy armadillos rarely inhabit any area with rocky or hard soil. Due to their dependence on burrows and burrowing, these areas are not suitable for hairy armadillos (Abba, 2015; Eisenberg & Redford, 1989). (Abba, et al., 2015; Eisenberg and Redford, 1989)

Some species are found at higher altitudes, including Zaedyus pichiy and Euphractus sexcinctus. The members of the genus g. Chaetophractus are found at varying altitudes from sea level to approximately 4600 meters (Abba, 2015; Eisenberg & Redford, 1989). (Abba, et al., 2015; Eisenberg and Redford, 1989)

Physical Description

Zaedyus pichiy is a small armadillo with a body measures from 24.3 - 31.3 cm in length with a tail length of 10.1 - 11.8 cm in length; they weigh approximately 1 kg on average. Z. pichiy has 6-8 bands with only one moveable band. Its hair is tan, and it increases in density and length in winter. Z. pichiy has short, gray ears. (Abba, 2015; Redford & Wetzel, 1985; Eisenberg & Redford, 1989; Delsuc, 2001).

Euphractus sexcinctus (yellow armadillo or six-handed armadillo) is the largest species of the Euphractinae at 3.2 to 6.5 kg in weight and 40.1 - 49.5 cm in length with 11.9 cm - 24.1 cm. E. sexcinctus has an average of 6.3 (6 to 7) moveable bands. It is pale in color with white hair (Abba, 2015; Redford & Wetzel, 1985; Eisenberg & Redford, 1989; Delsuc, 2001).

All members of Chaetophractus have a small shield between their ears, 7-8 movable bands out of 18 total bands, and the most hair of the subfamily.

Chaetophractus villosus is 38.6 - 48.6 cm in body length with a tail length of 9 - 17 cm. They weigh from 1.0 to 3.65 kg. The hair is white to light brown (Nowak, 1999)

Chaetophractus vellerosus has a length of 32.8 - 40.0 cm with a tail length of 8.4 cm - 13.1 cm. It weighs between 0.257 and 1.329 kg. C. vellerosus has the longest ears of the genus. It is a dark armadillo with brown to black hair (Abba, 2015; Redford & Wetzel, 1985; Eisenberg & Redford, 1989; Delsuc, 2001; Nowak, 1999).

Chaetophractus nationi ranges in size from 22.0 cm - 40.0 cm with an average weight of 2.15 kg. The hair ranges from tan to white. It can be sparse or thick, changing with the weather (Abba, 2015; Redford & Wetzel, 1985; Eisenberg & Redford, 1989; Delsuc, 2001; Nowak, 1999).

All members of Euphractinae have continuously growing teeth without enamel. The armor of Euphractinae is composed of dermal bone. They are sexually dimorphic with males being larger than females (Abba, 2015; Redford & Wetzel, 1985; Eisenberg & Redford, 1989; Delsuc, 2001; Nowak, 1999). (Abba, et al., 2015; Delsuc, et al., 2001; Eisenberg and Redford, 1989; Redford and Wetzel, 1985; Superina, 2007)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger

Reproduction

The members of Euphractinae are solitary until mating season. They reach sexual maturity at approximately 9 months, and they are all reared within the burrow (Nowak, 1999). (Abba, et al., 2015; Delsuc, et al., 2001; Redford and Wetzel, 1985)

The members of Euphractinae are solitary until mating season. They reach sexual maturity at approximately 9 months, and they are all reared within the burrow (Nowak, 1999).

Zaedyus pichiy breeds for 3 - 5 months during the spring to early summer (Abba, 2015; Nowak, 1999).

Euphractus sexcinctus is believed to breed primarily in summer. There have been births in other time periods (Redford & Wetzel, 1985; Nowak, 1999).

Members of Chaetophractus share breeding characteristics. They have multiple litters annually consisting of usually two offspring (Abba, 2015; Delsuc, 2001; Nowak, 1999). (Abba, et al., 2015; Delsuc, et al., 2001; Eisenberg and Redford, 1989; Redford and Wetzel, 1985)

Euphractinae rear their young in the burrow (Nowak, 1999).

The gestation period of Zaedyus pichiy is 58-60 days and offspring stay with the mother for approximately 40 days. The litter size is 1 -3 offspring (Abba, 2015; Nowak, 1999).

Euphractus sexcinctus build nests prior to giving birth. The litter size is 1 - 3 offspring. The gestation period is 60-64 days (Redford & Wetzel, 1985; Nowak, 1999).

Chaetophractus have multiple litters annually consisting of usually two offspring. The young are weaned at 50-60 days.The gestation period is 60-75 days (Abba, 2015; Delsuc, 2001; Nowak, 1999). (Abba, et al., 2015; Eisenberg and Redford, 1989; Redford and Wetzel, 1985)

Lifespan/Longevity

There is very limited information about the wild lifespan of the members of Euphractinae. The majority of information is from studies of individuals in captivity. The maximum recorded longevity of Zaedyus pichiy is 12.5 years in captivity. This is the shortest lifespan of Euphractinae. There are no longevity observations available for wild Z. pichiy.

The maximum recorded longevity of Euphractus sexcinctus is 22.1 years in captivity. There are no observations available for wild E. sexcinctus.

There is also little information of the longevity of g. Chaetophractus. A single member of Chaetophractus nationi lived for 14 years in captivity, but there is not sufficient data to assume this is the maximum longevity. Chaetophractus villosus has a maximum longevity of 25.2 years in captivity, and there is an unofficial account of a captive individual living over 30 years. Chaetophractus vellerosus has a maximum longevity of 16.2 years in captivity; data is limited, but it is hypothesized that C. vellerosus has a shorter lifespan than C. villosus (Carlini et al., 2016; Superina & Abba 2014; Redford & Wetzel, 1985; Tacutu et al., 2018; Frota et al., 2012).

The most common cause of death of Euphractinae species is hunting. Humans use armadillos for food. Diseases and infection also cause deaths in Euphractinae> species. These seem to be correlated with increased humidity. Euphractus sexcinctus is susceptible to leprosy and will die from a failing liver and renal system when infected (Carlini et al., 2016; Superina & Abba 2014; Redford & Wetzel, 1985; Tacutu et al., 2018; Frota et al., 2012). (Carlini, et al., 2016; Frota, et al., 2012; Redford and Wetzel, 1985; Superina and Abba, 2014a; Tacutu, et al., 2018)

Behavior

All members of the subfamily Euphractinae are solitary. They can be either diurnal or nocturnal. Armor is the signature characteristic of all armadillos. Euphractinae species typically dig in soil to cover their soft ventral side. Some members, typically Zaedyus pichiy and Chaetophractus vellerosus, scream in order to scare predators. This is why C. vellerosus has the common name of screaming hairy armadillo. Euphractus sexcinctus and Z. pichiy are normally diurnal, but they can be active at night. g. Chaetophractus species are unique among Euphractinae as they are typically diurnal in the winter and nocturnal in the summer.

Euphractinae species use burrows as shelter. They do not always return to the same burrows and may construct new ones. Multiple burrows can be connected if the soil allows it.

Zaedyus pichiy is the only armadillo known to hibernate. Hibernation occurs in winter. Zaedyus pichiy also goes through a daily torpor. During this time, body temperature drops to as low as 22° C (Superina & Boily 2007; Carlini et al., 2016; Superina & Abba 2014; Redford & Wetzel, 1985; McDonough,1997). (Carlini, et al., 2016; McDonough, 1997; Redford and Wetzel, 1985; Superina and Abba, 2014a; Superina and Boily, 2007)

Communication and Perception

As mentioned in the behavior section, members of the subfamily Euphractinae are solitary. This means that communication between individuals is rare. Reproductive habits and communication between mates in Euphractinae has not been extensively studied. Studies of similar species show interaction with mates via dorsal touching and low chuckle-like sounds.

Members of Euphractinae typically use their heightened sense of smell to hunt, smell food, and detect predators due to poor vision. As mentioned previously, Zaedyus pichiy and Chaetophractus vellerosus use a high-pitched scream to scare away predators (Carlini et al., 2016; Superina & Abba 2014; Redford & Wetzel, 1985; McDonough 1997). (Carlini, et al., 2016; McDonough, 1997; Redford and Wetzel, 1985; Superina and Abba, 2014a)

Food Habits

Members of the Euphractinae are omnivores. They primarily eat insects. The diet of the Zaedyus pichiy is over 60% insects. Euphractus sexcinctus and members of g. Chaetophractus have insects as over 50% of their diet. The rest of their diets consist of mainly plant matter ranging from crops to seeds. They also eat vertebrates such as small reptiles, amphibians, baby mammals and bird eggs (Eisenberg & Redford 1999; Dalponte & Taveres-Filho 2004; Superina, Campón, & Carrera 2009). ("Diet of the Yellow Armadillo, Euphractus sexcinctus, in South-Central Brazil", 2004; Eisenberg and Redford, 1989; Superina and Abba, 2014a; Superina, et al., 2009)

Predation

In response to predators, members of the subfamily Euphractinae dig into the ground to protect their ventral side while their armor protects the dorsal side. Zaedyus pichiy and Chaetophractus vellerosus both are known for their high pitch screeching to scare away predators (Carlini et al. 2016; Superina & Abba 2014; Redford & Wetzel 1985; McDonough1997).

Hairy armadillos have few natural predators. Their natural predators consist of canids and birds. Avian predators, such as owls, typically prey on young armadillos (Carlini et al. 2016; Superina & Abba 2014; Redford & Wetzel 1985; McDonough1997). (Carlini, et al., 2016; McDonough, 1997; Redford and Wetzel, 1985; Superina and Abba, 2014b)

  • Known Predators
    • Canids
    • Aves

Ecosystem Roles

Members of Euphractinae build burrows that they often desert. These burrows become shelter for various smaller species such as rodents, snakes, and lizards. This characteristic makes the members of Euphractinae an architect species that creates important protection for the members of their ecosystem (Eisenberg & Redford 1999; Redford & Wetzel 1985). (Eisenberg and Redford, 1989; Redford and Wetzel, 1985)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • creates habitat
Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Rodentia
  • Serpentes

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Members of Euphractinae all are hunted for food and novelty parts such as their armor. Due to their large insect intake, members of Euphractinae can contribute to pest control. They also have had great cultural importance for many South American cultures where they are used in traditions such as medicine. Euphractus sexcinctus is used for research of Mycobacterium leprae, or leprosy, because it is one of the only other animals that can carry leprosy (Frota et al. 2012; Superina & Abba 2014). (Frota, et al., 2012; Superina and Abba, 2014b)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

While the ability to carry leprosy is of scientific importance, members of Euphractinae carry various diseases that can be transmitted to humans such as rabies and salmonella. Members of Euphractinae will eat crops and create burrows in agricultural areas, interrupting livestock and planting (Frota et al. 2012; Superina & Abba 2014). (Frota, et al., 2012; Superina and Abba, 2014b)

Conservation Status

All members of Euphractinae except Zaedyus pichiy are rated as species of “Least Concern” by the IUCN due to growing or stable populations. Zaedyus pichiy is classified as “Near Threatened” by the IUCN due to hunting and evidence of local extinctions. Their rather large and widespread population keeps them from being vulnerable for now, but populations are declining (Superina & Abba 2014; IUCN SSC 2017; Abba, Lima, & Superina 2014). (IUCN SSC Anteater, Sloth and Armadillo Specialist Group, 2017; Superina and Abba, 2014a; Superina, et al., 2014)

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated

Other Comments

Armadillo comes from the Spanish roots meaning Armored Man. Euphractinae was only recently genetically mapped due to the rarity of its species (Delsuc 2001). (Delsuc, et al., 2001)

Contributors

Stephen Nachtsheim (author), Colorado State University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

causes disease in humans

an animal which directly causes disease in humans. For example, diseases caused by infection of filarial nematodes (elephantiasis and river blindness).

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

fossorial

Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.

hibernation

the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

omnivore

an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year

References

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