The Texas Varmint with a bendable shell is the Armadillo, a Spanish word meaning “little armored one”. The Aztecs called them azotochtli, which stands for “turtle-rabbit.” But, to some, these little critters are seen as armored rodents or skunks on a half shell. Whatever they are, these husked mammals can be found out in the Chihuahuan Desert out if West Texas, usually as road kill given the lumberous luggage they have to haul on their backs.
The bony plates cover the back, head, legs, and tail. The armadillo's shell is made of true bone that cover their backs. Most armadillos also have bony rings or plates that protect their tails. Because their backs are covered with bone, armadillos are not very flexible (pretty much like any Texas Democrat - an oxymoron in itself - that you might chance upon in Austin).
Armadillos are one of the few animals who consume fire ants as part of their diet. Like Texans, they like their cuisine a little on the hot side.
info (sans commentary) courtesy of animals.nationalgeographic
Tuck & Roll
ARMADILLO ROLL-UP: These photos show how an armadillo escapes predators.
(1) The armored mammal figures out if it can run away. If that won't work, it must do something else.
(2) The armadillo tucks its head and legs into its shell.
(3) The armadillo moves its tail next to its head.
(4) Once the animal is rolled up, there's no flesh left for predators to bite!
Photos © Mark Payne-Gill, naturepl.com
© 2005 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved.
Here's a little video I came across on YouTube.
And, in case you find the urge to have a little taste of these encased turtles, then here's a recipe I found on the internet that you might be willing to try:
Chufo's Armadillo Hot Off the Asphalt Chops
1 Armadillo (large)
1/2 cup Vinegar
2 cups Water
1 tb Salt
1 tb. pepper
1 Walla Walla Sweet onion sliced
1 lb. Smoked pork sausage (Cut into bite size pieces)
4 Stalks celery, chopped
1 lg red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 quart can mushroom steak sauce
4 tb. Worcestershire sauce
1 Parsley, chopped
1 Green onions, chopped
Armadillo is cleaned similarly to turtle. Clean and cut into serving
pieces. Marinate the meat in a sauce made by combining vinegar,
water, salt and onion. Marinate for 24 hours. Drain meat and
place in a glass container. Pour 1 quart of Worcestershire sauce
over meat and let it stand for 6 to 8 hours in refrigerator. Remove
meat and let drain for 1 hour.
Place oil in black iron pot brown sausage and armadillo. Remove
armadillo, but leave sausage in the pot. Add onion, celery, bell
pepper, garlic and saute with sausage until vegetables are tender.
Add the steak sauce, Worcestershire, salt, pepper. Stir until well
mixed. Put armadillo meat back into pot. Add enough water to
cover meat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered
for one hour. Sprinkle parsley and onion tops and lay thin lemon
slices on top. Simmer without cover for 10 to 15 minutes.
Serve over rice.
WARNING: Armadillos are one of the very few mammals that harbor the bacteria that causes leprosy. Usually, the disease's first sign of infection shows up as an unusual lumpy skin lesion. Buyer beware!
The 'Dillos are a little tough, but the meat under their belly is tender. And, they don't taste like chicken; they taste like armadillo.