Friday, October 7, 2011

Climate Change Expanding Armadillo Habitat

An armadillo in the snow?? There are over 20 known species of Armadillo, but only the nine-banded armadillo has ventured north of Latin America. Today it can be seen as far east as South Carolina and Illinois! Increasing temperatures due to climate change are likely expanding the habitable range of the armadillo. Not picky about their habitat, they can live in forests, grasslands or even the suburbs. They feed on insects and larvae in the soil, but are omnivorous animals thus posing a threat to ground nesting birds in these new areas. This expansion has been aided by humans with the removal of large mammalian predators, leaving the armadillo with few, or no, natural predators capable of penetrating its tough exterior.

Picturing an armadillo foraging in light snow in northern Texas seems out of place for the seemingly desert species, but the rugged animal is resilient in its resistance to ever warming winters. The absence of prolonged freezes is allowing these adventuresome armadillos to forage in even more diverse habitats.

In Georgia a study was completed on the habitat preferences of armadillos. 31 armadillos were tracked and their preferred habitat type recorded. The experiment showed that armadillos most prefer mature pine forests, the agricultural land, hardwood hammocks, barren terrain, and shrubs. The lack of a specific habitat selection for this population shows that more research is needed to understand the factors that determine armadillo distributions.

Daniel J. Gammons, Michael T. Mengak, Mike L. Conner. “Armadillo Habitat Selection in Southwest Georgia”. Journal of Mammalogy, April 2009, Vol. 90 Issue 2, p356-362

1 comment:

John Latto said...

I'm curious whether the Armadillo in the first picture is crossing by an Armadillo Crossing sign...