Saturday, January 20, 2024

Pink fairy armadillo - new Pokemon or real animal?

The pink fairy armadillo sounds like an invented animal, or a character from a kids' cartoon of or video game. But it's actually a real animal, living in the arid highlands of central Argentina.

Chlamyforus truncatus is a cute little critter, just 15cm (6 inches) long and weighing in at 100g (3.5 ounces). It probably eats mainly ants and other insects, and it lives in a burrow excavated by it disproportionately large claws, spending most of its time underground (unusual for an armadillo). 

But, other than that, its way of life in its natural habitat is poorly understood, and captive specimens tend not to live very long. In fact, so little is known about it that it is hard to assess whether it is threatened or not. However, anecdotally, fewer and fewer are being seen, and they are suffering predation from domestic dogs and cats and habitat loss from farming activities.

Setting aside its whimsical name, the animal even looks kind of unreal and made-up mainly because of its two-toned skin. In fact, it has a double layer of skin, unique among mammals, with an underneath layer of thick yellowish-white fur covered on the animal's top half by cornified scales (dead tissue forming a thickened protective layer) and osteoderms (bony plates embedded in the skin) more characteristic of other armadillo. 

So, not a new Pokemon, a pink fairy armadillo. 

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