Southern three-banded armadillo

Tolypeutes matacus

The southern three-banded armadillo lives in grassy or marshy areas between scattered forestland in the Gran Chaco region of South America, from central and eastern Bolivia, east to the Mato Grosso state of Brazil, and south to Paraguay and into northern and central Argentina. They are omnivores.

Armadillo is Spanish for "little armored one." The Aztec called armadillos, azotochtli, or "turtle rabbit."

Armadillo behavior and facts

  • Three-banded armadillos eat beetle larvae. Ants and termites are another part of their diet during the dry season. During the wet season, armadillos eat fruit.
  • They are primarily solitary and use abandoned anteater burrows as shelter. They do not dig their own burrows.
  • Members of the genus Tolypeutes are the only armadillos that can completely enclose themselves in their own shell by rolling into a ball. This is a defense adaptation against predators. The large front and rear portions of the shell are not attached to the skin on the sides, providing free space to fit the head, legs and tail into the shell when the animals are rolled up.
  • Three-banded armadillos are blackish-brown. Most have three moveable bands, although some possess only two, and others may have four. Other armadillo species have up to nine bands.

From birth to death

  • Gestation: 120 days
  • Litter: 1 young, born fully formed; it can walk and roll into a ball from birth.
  • Weaned: 72 days
  • Sexual maturity: 9 to 12 months
  • Lifespan: up to 20 years in captivity

Vital statistics

  • Weight: 2 to 3.5 pounds
  • Length: 5.5 to 10.5 inches
  • Tail length: 2.5 to 3 inches


Near threatened by the IUCN

Armadillos, the Oregon Zoo and you

When not on exhibit at the zoo, a southern three-banded armadillo is part of the zoo's education program.

The southern three-banded armadillo is threatened by hunting for its meat. Since it is not fossorial (adapted for burrowing), it is easier to hunt than other armadillo species. It is also threatened by habitat destruction as land is converted to farming, and the pet trade.