Field notes from the past (11): The Armadillo

In addition to all these and many other birds and mammals, which had been our daily companions ever since our arrival in Patagonia, there was one curious little mammal belonging to an entirely different order, representatives of which we had not met with south of the Santa Cruz River. I refer to the little armadillo, Tatusia hybrida. Frequent examples of these were to be seen running about over the pampa or lying prone upon the ground. Immediately on touching one of these little animals, they roll themselves up into a compact ball in much the same manner as do some of the leeches or species of chitons, on being detached from the stones to the surface of which they are usually fixed. When in this position, the bony covering of the carapace serves to protect them from their ordinary enemies. They live in shallow holes excavated in the surface of the pampa, and if by any chance they succeed in reaching the mouth of one of these before being captured, they force the serrated edges of the carapace into the surrounding dirt in such a manner that they can be extracted only with the greatest difficulty. At this latitude they hibernate in winter and prefer a warm sandy soil and sheltered locality. In such places they are fairly abundant north of the Santa Cruz River, but we never observed a specimen south of that stream, nor after careful enquiries could I discover that they had ever been seen by others in the region lying south of this river. It seems probable, therefore, that this stream has afforded an effective barrier to their further distribution to the southward, for not only are there many localities to the south that would seem quite as well adapted to their needs as those to the north, but the entire southern half of the valley of that river is especially well suited to them. Though common in the valley on the north side of the river, no example has ever been taken to my knowledge in the valley on the south side.

-JB Hatcher, 1897

 

Cover image: Patagonian landscape. Obtained from the original text.

Reference:

– Hatcher JB. (1903). Narrative of the expeditions and geography of southern Patagonia. Rept. Princeton Univ. Exped. Patagonia. 1: 1-314.

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