• The southern three-banded armadillo is indigenous to central South America, ranging between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia. 

    Like most armadillos, the southern three-banded is covered in plates of leathery armor that protect it from predators. But what makes this armadillo special is its ability to roll completely into a ball. The neighboring Brazilian three-banded armadillo is the only other armadillo with this adaptation. The adaptation works well in the wild—only jaguars, alligators, and pumas are powerful enough to punch through the protective plates.

    Habitat loss is a challenge for many species, including the southern three-banded armadillo. During the 20th century, the rich Rio de la Plata river basin underwent agricultural development; the habitat changed from a flood plain to cultivated fields of crops such as soy and sorghum. Today, the southern three-banded armadillo is classified as a near threatened species.

    1. How do cultivated landscapes threaten native animals?

      Cultivation is the process of turning land into soil for farming. This transformation is happening around the world as human populations continue to grow. While some animals can find new homes on plantations, farms, and other cultivated landscapes, it is difficult for many species to adapt to new ecosystems so quickly.  

    2. Three-banded armadillos can roll completely into a ball. Can you think of other animals that have evolved defensive adaptations? 

      Answers will vary!

      • Porcupines are some of the pokiest animals around. They’ve evolved a back full of pointy quills, up to a foot long, to ward off predators.
      • Many species of cuttlefish can eject clouds of ink when threatened. It’s like a marine smokescreen! 
    3. Why do you think southern three-banded armadillos are hunted by humans? 

      While the three-banded armadillos might be cute, they are just like every animal and part of a food web. Historically, this armadillo has been hunted for food and for sale to either zoos or the exotic pet market.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    adaptation Noun

    a modification of an organism or its parts that makes it more fit for existence. An adaptation is passed from generation to generation.

    Encyclopedic Entry: adaptation
    agricultural development Noun

    modern farming methods that include mechanical, chemical, engineering and technological methods. Also called industrial agriculture.

    armor Noun

    protective covering.

    basin Noun

    a dip or depression in the surface of the land or ocean floor.

    Encyclopedic Entry: basin
    classify Verb

    to identify or arrange by specific type or characteristic.

    crop Noun

    agricultural produce.

    Encyclopedic Entry: crop
    cultivate Verb

    to prepare and nurture the land for crops.

    flood plain Noun

    flat area alongside a stream or river that is subject to flooding.

    Encyclopedic Entry: flood plain
    habitat Noun

    environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.

    Encyclopedic Entry: habitat
    habitat loss Noun

    the reduction or destruction of an ecosystem, making it less able to support its native species.

    indigenous Adjective

    characteristic to or of a specific place.

    Encyclopedic Entry: indigenous
    near threatened Noun

    level of conservation between "least concern" and "vulnerable."

    predator Noun

    animal that hunts other animals for food.