The nine-banded armadillo is an easily recognized small mammal considered non-native to the state of Florida. The leathery skin and the carapace of bone-like dermal plates on the back, sides, tail, and top of the head are the prominent identifying features of this animal. The carapace is flexible at the body mid-section due to the presence of a series of bands of dermal plate connected to each other by pliable and hairless skin. The head is small, tapering to a pig-like snout adapted for rooting, and the relatively large ears are about half the length of the head. Forelimbs have four digits and the hind limbs have five. The short, muscular limbs and the long, sharp, curved claws are great adaptations for a digging/rooting forager. The teeth are reduced with incisors and canines lacking. The teeth the animal does possess are simple and peg-like and lacking enamel in adults.
Nine-banded armadillos most often inhabit forest and scrub-brush areas in tropical and temperate regions. They are also found in grasslands and savanna regions around woody areas, but much prefer forests over grasslands because they forage in forest litter for small invertebrates. Nine-banded armadillos are not often found in arid regions; they thrive especially in riparian habitats or areas with a sufficient amount of water and/or at least 38 cm of rain annually. This association with water could be due the increased number of available food sources in wetter areas or to the softer soil conditions, making digging and burrowing easier. As long as sufficient food and water supplies are available, nine-banded armadillos are very adaptable to different habitats.
Armadillos are typically active at night or twilight. They shuffle along slowly, using their sense of smell to find food—mostly insects, and occasionally worms, snails, eggs, amphibians, and berries. They root and dig with their nose and powerful forefeet to unearth insects. Nine-banded Armadillos travel with their nose just above the ground and can smell invertebrates up to 20 cm below the surface. They can also stand on their hind feet, bracing themselves with their tail and sniff the air to locate food. Smell may also be important for nine-banded armadillos to orient themselves and recognize familiar places, although there is no evidence that they employ scent trails. The animals’ reliance on scent is reflected by corresponding development in their fore-brains.Nine-banded armadillos also have a good sense of hearing, which the animals use in avoiding predation or other sources of potential danger. Mating pairs also communicate with a “chucking” sound. Nine-banded armadillos have a poor sense of vision, which is useless except at close distances, and they are thought to have a poor sense of touch, they also have fewer taste buds than other mammals, so it is likely that nine-banded armadillos have a poor sense of taste as well.