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Home » Blog » Southern Three-Banded Armadillo: Facts and Information

Southern Three-Banded Armadillo: Facts and Information

The southern three-banded armadillo, also known as the Tolypeutes matacus, is a small mammal native to South America. This unique armadillo species is known for its ability to roll itself into a ball, providing protection from predators. The southern three-banded armadillo is one of only two armadillo species that can roll itself into a complete ball, with its head and tail tucked safely inside.

The southern three-banded armadillo is found in the dry regions of Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia. It is a solitary animal that is active primarily at night, feeding on insects, small vertebrates, and plant material. Despite its small size, the southern three-banded armadillo is an important member of its ecosystem, helping to control insect populations and contributing to soil health through its burrowing activities. At present, the species is categorized as vulnerable because of habitat depletion and the pursuit for its flesh and shell.

Taxonomy and Evolution

Tiny armadillo

The Southern three-banded armadillo (Tolypeutes matacus), also known as the La Plata three-banded armadillo, is a species of armadillo that belongs to the family Chlamyphoridae. The species was first described by Linnaeus in 1758 and is one of the smallest armadillos, measuring only about 20 cm in length and weighing around 1 kg.

Relation to Other Armadillos

The Southern three-banded armadillo is closely related to the other two species of three-banded armadillos, the Brazilian three-banded armadillo (Tolypeutes tricinctus) and the giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus). These three species are unique among armadillos in tthat they have the ability to roll when feel in danger, with their armored shell providing them complete protection from predators.

The Southern three-banded armadillo is also related to other armadillo species, including:

Northern Naked Tailed Armadillo (Cabassous unicinctus): This species is known for its lack of armor on its tail and its solitary, nocturnal lifestyle, primarily found in South America.

Six-Banded Armadillo (Euphractus sexcinctus): Recognizable by its six distinct armor bands, this armadillo is versatile, inhabiting various South American environments and feeding on insects and plants.

Yellow Armadillo (Euphractus sexcinctus): Often confused with the six-banded armadillo due to its similar appearance, the yellow armadillo is smaller and distinguished by its lighter coloration.

Big Hairy Armadillo (Chaetophractus villosus): Known for its dense, hair-covered body and adaptability, this species can be found in grasslands and deserts across southern South America.

Eleven Banded Armadillo (Cabassous centralis): Named for the eleven bands on its armor, this armadillo is found in Central and South America, feeding on insects and small vertebrates.

Pygmy Armadillo (Chlamyphorus truncatus): One of the smallest armadillo species, this elusive creature has a pinkish shell and burrows underground in the dry grasslands of Argentina.

In terms of evolution, armadillos are believed to have originated in South America around 60 million years ago and have since diversified into 21 extant species. The Southern three-banded armadillo is believed to have diverged from its closest relative, the Brazilian three-banded armadillo, around 3 million years ago.

Overall, the Southern three-banded armadillo is a fascinating species with a unique evolutionary history and close relationships to other armadillo species. Its ability to roll into a tight ball for protection is a remarkable adaptation that has helped it survive in the harsh environments of South America.

Physical Characteristics

The Southern three-banded armadillo is a small mammal that is easily recognizable due to its banded shell. The shell is made of keratin, which consists of the same substance found in human hair and nails. The shell is flexible and allows the armadillo to curl into a sphere to shield itself from predators.

The Southern three-banded armadillo has a unique body shape. It possesses an elongated snout that it utilizes to detect insects, which make up the majority of its diet. It has small eyes and ears, which are located on the side of its head. Its legs are short and sturdy, enabling it to excavate and burrow while foraging for food.

This armadillo is typically around 20 cm long and weighs between 1 and 1.5 kg. Its shell is about 15 cm long and is divided into three bands, which give the armadillo its name. The bands are separated by flexible skin, enabling the armadillo to roll into a ball

The Southern three-banded armadillo is not a large animal, but it is an important one. It is listed as an endangered armadillo species due to habitat loss and hunting. Efforts are underway to conserve this distinctive and captivating creature.

Habitat and Distribution

southern three-banded armadillo Habitat

Geographical Range

The southern three-banded armadillo (Tolypeutes matacus) is a species of armadillo found in South America. Its range includes parts of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay. While it is not found throughout all of these countries, it is widely distributed across them.

Preferred Habitats

The southern three-banded armadillo prefers to live in areas with sandy soils, such as savannas, grasslands, and dry forests. They are also recognized for inhabiting regions close to rivers and streams. This species is adapted to a semi-fossorial lifestyle, meaning they spend a significant portion of their time underground in burrows. They are able to dig their own burrows, but they also utilize deserted burrows left by other animals. These burrows offer protection from predators and maintain a stable microclimate.

In addition to their preferred habitats, southern three-banded armadillos are also able to live in areas that have been disturbed by human activity, such as agricultural fields and pastures. Nevertheless, they are commonly encountered in areas with natural vegetation coverage.

Overall, the southern three-banded armadillo is a widespread species that is able to adapt to a variety of habitats within its range.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

southern three-banded armadillo diet

The southern three banded armadillo diet is complex, as they are omnivore and feeds on a variety of foods. Their primary diet comprises insects, notably ants and termites, but they also eat fruits, seeds, and small vertebrates. They possess a keen sense of smell, aiding in prey detection.

When foraging for food, southern three-banded armadillos employ their robust front claws to excavate the ground and hunt for insects. Additionally, they are recognized for utilizing their snouts to detect food in leaf litter and other debris.

Interestingly, the southern three-banded armadillo is able to roll into a ball to protect itself from predators. However, this behavior also helps them access hard-to-reach food sources. By rolling into a ball and using their armor as a tool, they can break open termite mounds and access the insects inside.

Overall, the southern three-banded armadillo has a diverse diet and unique foraging behavior that allows it to survive in its habitat.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Southern three-banded armadillos are monogamous and mate for life. They attain sexual maturity at approximately two years old. Breeding season is from June to July, and females deliver a solitary offspring following a gestation period of roughly 120 days. The newborn armadillo emerges fully developed and can walk within hours of birth.

The lifespan of southern three-banded armadillos in the wild is unknown, but they can survive for up to 20 years in captivity. They have a low reproductive rate, with females producing only one offspring per year. This, combined with habitat loss and hunting, resulted in the species being categorized as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Efforts are being made to conserve the southern three-banded armadillo, this includes the creation of protected areas and captive breeding programs. These initiatives are geared towards boosting the species' population and mitigating the threat of extinction.

In conclusion, the southern three-banded armadillo has a unique reproductive system and a relatively long lifespan. However, their low reproductive rate and habitat loss have put them at risk of extinction, making conservation efforts crucial for their survival.

Conservation Status


The southern three-banded armadillo is currently listed as a species of "Least Concern" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Nevertheless, this doesn't imply that the species isn't confronted with threats. The primary threat to the southern three-banded armadillo is habitat loss due to deforestation and agricultural expansion. The species is also targeted for its meat and utilized in traditional medicine in certain regions. Additionally, climate change could potentially affect the species' habitat and food supply.

Conservation Efforts

Several conservation efforts are being made to protect the southern three-banded armadillo. The species is protected by law in Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina, and its hunting and trade are strictly regulated. Efforts such as establishing protected areas and restoring degraded habitats are also underway to aid in the conservation of the species. Furthermore, research is being conducted to enhance understanding of the species' ecology and behavior, which can help inform conservation strategies.

Despite these efforts, the southern three-banded armadillo remains an endangered species, and continued conservation efforts are necessary to ensure its survival.

Behavior and Social Structure

The Southern three-banded armadillo is a solitary animal that spends most of its time in burrows. They are primarily active during the night and spend their days resting in their burrows. These armadillos are known for their unique behavior of rolling into a ball when threatened. This behavior helps protect their soft underbelly, which is their most vulnerable area.

Southern three-banded armadillos are not very social animals and are usually found living alone or in pairs. They are not territorial and do not defend their burrows from other armadillos. However, they do have a well-defined home range, which they mark with their scent.

These armadillos communicate with each other through scent marking and vocalizations. They possess a sharp sense of smell, aiding them in locating food and potential mates. They also use their sense of smell to identify other armadillos in their area.

When it comes to reproduction, Southern three-banded armadillos have a unique mating system. Unlike most mammals, the female armadillo is the one that initiates the mating process. The female will approach a male and sniff him to determine if he is a suitable mate. If she approves, she will allow the male to mate with her.

In conclusion, Southern three-banded armadillos are solitary animals that are active mostly at night. They communicate with each other through scent marking and vocalizations and have a unique mating system where the female initiates the mating process.

Interaction with Humans

Cultural Significance

The Southern three-banded armadillo has a significant cultural significance in South America. It is considered a symbol of strength, protection, and resilience. The Guarani people of Paraguay, who are known for their traditional knowledge and use of medicinal plants, believe that the armadillo's shell has healing properties and can be used to treat various ailments.

Human Impact

Human activities such as deforestation, hunting, and roadkill have had a significant impact on the Southern three-banded armadillo population. The loss of habitat due to deforestation has forced these armadillos to move to urban areas, where they are often hit by cars. Hunting for their meat and shell has also contributed to their decline in population.

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Critter Stop is a professional wildlife removal company that specializes in the humane removal of armadillos. We use safe and effective methods to remove armadillos from residential and commercial properties in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. Critter Stop's team of experts is trained to handle armadillos with care and to release them back into their natural habitat. If you need armadillo removal services, contact us at (214) 234-2616!

Frequently Asked Questions

What defense mechanisms do three-banded armadillos use?

Three-banded armadillos have a unique defense mechanism. They can curl themselves into a ball when threatened. This makes them very difficult for predators to attack, as their armored shell provides excellent protection. In addition to this, they also have sharp claws that they can use to dig themselves into the ground to hide from predators.

Which predators commonly prey on three-banded armadillos?

Three-banded armadillos have a few natural predators, including jaguars, pumas, and birds of prey. Humans are also known to hunt them for their meat and shells. However, due to their unique defense mechanism, they are not easy prey for most predators.

In what regions can the three-banded armadillo be found?

The three-banded armadillo is found primarily in South America, particularly in Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. They prefer to live in dry, open habitats such as savannas and grasslands. They are also recognized for dwelling in areas adjacent to water sources like rivers and streams. However, due to habitat loss and hunting, their populations have dwindled in recent years.

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Lee Gorman
Lee Gorman
13:50 21 Nov 22
I’d give a 10 star review if I could! We had a great experience with Critter Stop. Everyone I dealt was friendly, professional, and reassuring. Phillip was very helpful and knowledgeable about the work he was doing. He walked me around the entire house to make sure I saw and understood the services he provided. He was also really nice and answered all my questions — he is exactly the type of person that should be interacting with customers.I love the fact that they will come back for up to 1 year after installation if any problems occur — this shows me they stand behind their work.The owner was great too, he personally came to my house and walked me through their offering. I recommend critter stop to anyone and everyone!
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14:53 15 Nov 22
Critter Stop is a fantastic business! Everyone involved is extremely professional and very easy to communicate with. Chisam, the owner, did a great job of explaining the process to get the squirrels out of my attic during the initial free estimate. The exclusion crew who did all of the initial work was fabulous. The crew consisted of Phillip, Nick and Corey who arrived promptly when they said they would. They are happy, positive employees. Everyone is very polite and patient in explaining their work and answering questions. They came back several times to check the traps and finish it off with the fogging. Lester was very good about following up to schedule each trap check with me, and the office staff who took care of the billing was very efficient. Critter Stop is a well run company with honest, trustworthy employees! Thank you to all of you who worked hard to make my attic critter free and for the peace of mind that you guarantee your work. Great to know I can call them if for some reason a squirrel figures out a way to get back in!
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