The rare pink fairy armadillo is a mysterious creature hardly ever seen above ground. These tiny, vibrantly colored animals are native to the grasslands and sandy plains of central Argentina. While their behavior isn't particularly fairy-like (they spend most of their time burrowing through compacted earth) their appearance certainly is. These delicate animals are a brilliant shade of pink, but why? How close to endangered are they, and why can't they survive in captivity?
Their Delicate Shell Gives Them Their Distinctive Hue
The back of a pink fairy armadillo is a gorgeous shade of pink. It might appear slightly less lovely once you find out what causes the unusual hue: a network of blood vessels, visible through the animal's delicate shell. These vessels help the animal regulate its temperature by pumping blood. As the vessels constrict or dilate, the shell changes color.
They're 'Sand Swimmers'
The pink fairy armadillo has two huge sets of claws, so they can easily create burrows in compacted soil. Its skill at digging earned it the nickname "sand swimmer." While the claws are useful for digging, their large size relative to the rest of the armadillo's body makes walking on hard surfaces difficult.
They're The Smallest Species Of Armadillo
There are 20 officially recognized species of armadillo. Of those species, pink fairy armadillos are by far the smallest, weighing in at an average of 120 grams (4.2 oz). They're only about 90-115 mm (3.5-4.5 in.) long, making them palm-sized.
Their Tails Function As A Fifth Limb
When the pink fairy armadillo becomes engrossed in digging with its limbs, it can employ its tail. The club-shaped tail functions as a fifth limb, helping the armadillo balance. It also has a "butt plate" next to its tail, which can compact the dirt behind it as it moves forward, thus keeping debris out of its face, allowing it to breathe and explore freely.