Photographer's Note

The armadillo is an odd creature; fossils tell us it has survived unchanged for 50 million years. Because of its oddness and its legacy as a survivor, it was adopted by the 1960s Austin counterculture as an unofficial mascot.

Biologically, they are placental mammals, related to anteaters and sloths. Although they appear to have a hard shell like a turtle, it is more of a very heavy leather. (The Aztecs called them "turtle-rabbits.") They have been the subject of many scientific studies, as they produce identical quadruplets ("the only reliable manifestation of polyembryony in the class Mammalia"). Also, they have a low body temperature that makes them hospitable to certain pathogens, including leprosy. Armadillo shells are used to make the back of the charango, an Andean stringed instrument.

It was their behavioral quirks that endeared them to the Austin hippie community. They can run, but typically will meander slowly. When threatened, it will ball up and wait for the predator to give up on the prospects of penetrating its shell. When startled, it will jump straight up into the air, as high as a meter.

This little guy was in my yard last October, and is not an unusual sight in and around Austin. He was the size of a small dog -- maybe half a meter long (including his tail) and I would guess 8-10 kg.

For more info on these animals, check Wikipedia. Please also check Wikipedia for "Armadillo World Headquarters," a seminal Austin music venue.

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Additional Photos by Russ Ham (EstudioChispa) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 258 W: 90 N: 498] (2182)
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