Brazilian Three-Banded Armadillo

Brazilian Three-Banded Armadillo

Tolypeutes tricinctus
Population size
Life Span
12-19 yrs
1-1.6 kg
22-27 cm

The Brazilian three-banded armadillo is native to eastern Brazil, where it is known as tatu-bola ( ball armadillo). It is one of only two species of armadillo that can roll into a ball. Its armor is composed of ossified dermal scutes covered by nonoverlapping, keratinized epidermal scales, which are connected by flexible bands of skin. This armor covers the back of the animal and also sides, head, tail, ears, and outside surfaces of the legs. The underside of the body and the inner surfaces of the legs have no armored protection and are covered instead by long, coarse hair.


As their name suggests, Brazilian three-banded armadillos are indigenous to Brazil, living primarily in the northeastern part of the country, just south of the equator. They inhabit open savannahs (Cerrado) and dry woodlands (Caatinga), where low rainfall and poor soil limit the vegetation to tall, woody grasses, scattered bushes, and gnarled trees. There is also an abundance of cactus-like plants in the northern reaches of its range.

Brazilian Three-Banded Armadillo habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Brazilian three-banded armadillos are generally solitary, but may occasionally travel in small family groups of up to three members. They are largely nocturnal but have been known to forage during the day. All the armadillos are spectacular diggers, but unlike most of the other species, Three-banded armadillos do not dig in defense or to find shelter. They prefer to rest under bushes, rather than dig burrows, and their ability to roll into a ball makes defensive digging unnecessary. When they are not foraging, they move with a sort of trot, bouncing on the tips of their front toes, while their hind feet slap flatly on the ground. They mark their territories with secretions from glands on their face, feet, and rump. When threatened, they occasionally do not seal their armor completely but wait until they are touched. They then quickly snap shut in an effort to startle the predator.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Brazilian three-banded armadillos are carnivores (insectivores) and scavengers. Their diet includes mainly ants and termites, but they will also eat mollusks, worms, fruit, and carrion.

Mating Habits

120 days
1 pup
10 weeks
female, zed
male, lister

The breeding season of Brazilian three-banded armadillos occurs from October to January, during which there is a brief courtship before mating. After the gestation period of 120 days, the female gives birth to a single, blind offspring. The newborn’s armor is soft, but its claws are fully developed, and it can walk and roll into a ball within hours of birth. The armor hardens by the third or fourth week, around the same time the eyes and earflaps open. The young armadillo is weaned at 10 weeks and becomes reproductively mature at 9-12 months of age.


Population threats

The major threat to Brazilian three-banded armadillos is the destruction of their habitats to make room for plantations and livestock grazing. These animals also suffer from heavy hunting, especially populations that live in protected areas.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Brazilian three-banded armadillo total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The word armadillo means "little armored one" in Spanish.
  • The Brazilian three-banded armadillo was once known as 'kwaráu' in the extinct Huamoé language of the Serra Negra in Pernambuco State, Brazil, and as ˈkʌ̨́ñíkį̀ in the extinct Kambiwá language of Barreira, Petrolândia, Pernambuco.
  • Brazilian three-banded armadillos can smell termites and ants through up to 20 centimeters of soil! They find food by shuffling slowly along with their nose to the ground. When they detect prey, armadillos frantically dig a hole and thrust their nose into it, using their long, sticky tongue to lap up any insects they may find.
  • The unique ability of Brazilian three-banded armadillos to roll up in a tight, almost impenetrable ball is possible due their slightly looser armor than that of other armadillo genera, which allows for greater freedom of movement. The loose armor also creates a layer of air between the shell and the body, which insulates the animal. This higher capacity for thermoregulation allows them to survive in climates too arid for some of the other armadillo species. When the armadillo rolls into a defensive ball, the ears are tucked into the shell and the head and tail interlock to seal the shell completely.
  • The teeth of Brazilian three-banded armadillos are soft and peg-like, adapted solely for smashing the exoskeletons of insects.


1. Brazilian Three-Banded Armadillo on Wikipedia -
2. Brazilian Three-Banded Armadillo on The IUCN Red List site -

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