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Strange creature of the night in Merritt Island, Fla.

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Driving home from work, I couldn't believe my eyes when I encountered a strange nocturnal creature crossing the street right in front of me. Living in Merritt Island, Fla. for one year, I was unaware of their existence in this particular area. On another note, I was surprised by its poor judgement when crossing the road. Unfortunately, this armored animal's death wish came true two days later when it became road kill.

Nine Banded Armadillos are so named for the number of bands commonly found around their midsection, although number of bands vary with location. They are also well recognized for their long noses, which earns them the name Long Nosed Armadillos. The armor itself is made up of ossified dermal scutes or armored plate consisting of keratanized skin. Their armor cover their backs, sides, legs, tails, and most importantly their heads. The rest of their bodies are covered with thick skin and coarse hair.

Armadillos are extensive burrowers with a single animal maintaining around 10 burrows. They will mark their territory with their urine, feces, and scent glands that are excreted from either their feet, nose, or eyelids. Each burrow can be as wide as 8 inches, as deep as 7 feet, and as long as 25 feet. This is not counting the overlaps between a male and several female burrows.

During mating season, an egg is fertilized but implantation delayed for three to four months until favorable conditions arises. Afterwards, the zygote will then split into four embryos with their own placentas. After birth, the quadruplets will remain in the nest while drinking their mother's milk for three months. They will then leave their burrow to follow their mother while foraging for insects until 6 months to 1 year later when they have to fend for themselves.

Did you know? According to National Geographic, unlike the three banded armadillo located in South America, nine banded armadillos cannot protect themselves by rolling into a ball. However, nine banded armadillos do have the advantage of inflating their intestines while swimming in water. They can also sink by choice and run along the water bed.



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