Liv Francis-Pape reports on Newcastle University's breakthough 3D printing of corneas.Written by Liv Francis-Pape on 18th June 2018
Creature Feature: The Pink Fairy Armadillo
Creature Feature is back with a weird and wonderful mammal, which remains relative unseen by humans. Ellen Daugherty reports
The pichiciego, or more comically named, Pink Fairy Armadillo, is the smallest species of armadillo and remains elusive to humans - even those who spend a lifetime studying them.
Endemic to central Argentina, these solitary animals spend the majority of their lives underground in burrows. Digging through the dry sand of Argentinian planes is facilitated by their large claws on both front and back limbs. They stay in their burrows during the day and only come out to feed at night. Nevertheless they still manage to remain relatively unseen by frequently burrowing next to large ant colonies, meaning they do not have to stray far to get to a food source.
“Pink Fairy Armadillos can bury themselves in a matter of seconds if threatened by a predator - usually being domestic dogs or wild boars...
Burrowing comes in handy for predator avoidance and Pink Fairy Armadillos can bury themselves in a matter of seconds if threatened by a predator - usually being domestic dogs or wild boars. Luckily they rarely leave the safety of their burrows, and will only leave during the day if water leaks underground, as if their fur gets wet they will be unable to thermoregulate effectively.
Thermoregulation is vital for this armadillo as it lives in arid grassland or sandy planes, that can get very hot during the day but sees dramatic temperature decline at night. This means they need to be able to conserve heat during the day, for use when they are active in the night. This is where the characteristically rose-tinted dorsal shell comes into play, as it is covered in blood vessels which allows them regulate their core temperature.
Sightings of these small, mysterious creatures are so rare that their exact population is hard to determine; the fragmented information that is usually found shows populations are isolated from each other in a random distribution. They also do not do well in captivity, with most individuals dying after only 8 days out of the wild. This is because of specific, and unknown, dietary and habitat requirements.
“They do not do well in captivity, with most individuals dying after 8 days out of the wild...
It is this lack of knowledge about the Pink Fairy Armadillo, that has started calls for increased conservation of the species. However, this can only be achieved with more research and understanding into this notoriously cryptic creature.