The armadillo is the only mammal with a shell. He is a distinctive and highly unusual fellow, with a variety of novel features, including a sloped back, short legs, snout and tail. Despite being something of a quirky chap, the sheer variety of physical features he has means he bears similarities to other creatures, from deep sea monsters to cute, fury garden visitors.
A Close Relative
The anteater (Vermilingua) is one of only two living armadillo relatives, the other being the sloth. Both are members of the Xenarthra group of mammals. Xenarthra are exclusively insectivores and this is reflected in the distinctive snout of both the armadillo and the anteater. Side by side, an armadillo is instantly discernible from his ant-eating cousin due to the shell, but at night, when both are shuffling around on their short legs, with their heads to the ground in search of food, it is plausible to mistake one for the other.
A Distant Lookalike
Unusually, the animal that looks most similar to the armadillo lives at the bottom of the sea and is more closely related to the crab and woodlouse than armadillo. But the giant isopod (Bathynomus giganteus), with its ridged shell covering the top of the body, exposing only the ends of the limbs concealed beneath creates a striking resemblance to the armadillo.
A Less Distant Lookalike
The woodlouse (Porcellio scaber), the land-dwelling relative of the giant isopod, also bears a notable resemblance to the armadillo. Woodlice and isopods are both crustaceans and as such, each has a hard “crust” covering the top of the body. The shell is the most distinctive feature of the armadillo, since it also covers the entire top of the body, and for this reason, the woodlouse, although far smaller, does resemble the armadillo.
It’s All in the Nose
When walking with his head up, the mammalian appearance of the armadillo comes into focus. His soft fur, alert eyes and chunky body remind the observer that this is a mammal with a shell, not a reptile. The elephant shrew’s (Rhynchocyon cirnei) long snout, stout body, short front legs and long tail strongly resemble those of the armadillo.
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Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.