Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 47.djvu/367

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355
THE ARMADILLO AND ITS ODDITIES.

plateaus of the Andes, the forests of Brazil, and the barren plains of Central America and Mexico.

From the imperfect structure of its back teeth, which vary in number from twenty-eight to thirty-six, according to the species, and which curiously interlock with each other, it will be seen that the armadillo can only eat the softest food, both animal and vegetable, such as insects, worms, carrion, fruit, and tender roots. Some species are more exclusively vegetarian than others. Those which make the flesh of animals a part of their diet can only eat it after it has become putrid, or, in the case of my pets, after it has been cooked until very tender.

In certain South American countries where cattle are frequently killed for their hides only, and the carcasses left on the ground, the armadillo feasts on putrid flesh. It burrows under a fresh carcass and waits patiently until decay has taken place. It

PSM V47 D367 Armadillos jack and jill.jpg
Jack and Jill.

then eats its way into the body, finally leaving nothing but the dry bones and skin. In this habit the armadillo resembles certain insects, such as ants and carrion beetles.

The giant armadillo has a still more repulsive habit, sometimes burrowing into human graves when opportunity offers. In such localities graves are commonly protected from the ravages of these ghouls by stones or heavy planks.

The smaller armadillos often enter the nests of ants, but more for the purpose of securing the larvæ than the perfect insects. The tongue, though not long and extensile like that of the true ant-eater, is slender, tapering, and flexible, and can be protruded a short distance from the mouth. It is further adapted for securing insects by a glutinous saliva.

It is amusing to see an armadillo eat, to hear it smack its lips, and to notice its evident enjoyment of its food. Both in its wild state and in captivity it is a hearty eater and often becomes very