Little Pink Ball of Cuteness: Everything We Know About the Pink Fairy Armadillo

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Here’s an Internet curiosity you can trust: the pink armadillo fairy.

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Yes, this pink armadillo is real. Image credit: Critter Science

Weighing around 100 grams, it can fit comfortably in your hand. The pink fairy armadillo (Chlaмyphorus truncatus), also known as the Pichiciego, is the smallest armadillo species in the world, measuring just 15 cm (6 in) long. According to Mariella Superina of the CONICET research center in Mendoza, Argentina, this armadillo is covered with “very fine and silky white hair.” And its hard outer shell, which is rich in flood vessels, is capable of turning pink.

The pink hue along the pink fairy’s spine is known as a carapace, similar to the exoskeleton seen on turtles or crustaceans. This protective armor serves as the animal’s main defense against predators. When it feels threatened, the armadillo can quickly burrow underground and then use its armor plate to “cover” the entrance to its furrow for added safety.

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The pink fairy armadillo, the world’s smallest armadillo, can fit comfortably in the palm of researcher Mariella Superina’s hand. Image credit: Paul Vogt, M. Superina

However, much of the pink fairy armadillo’s physiology remains a mystery. It is found only in a dry, sandy region of Argentina and resides primarily underground, making it difficult to detect. As a result, Superina and her team find it difficult to even determine whether a species is endangered or not. Superina leads an international group of experts who are now assessing the risk of extinction of all 21 known species of armadillos in the world, along with their close relatives, sloths and anteaters.

After 10 years in the field, Superina has yet to see a pink fairy armadillo in its natural habitat. All he has seen are tracks made by digging claws that end abruptly after several meters, mostly where the armadillo has gone underground. And he also had the opportunity to offer the diamond-shaped tip of his tail. But that’s all.

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Unlike most other armadillos, the pink fairy armadillo’s shell may be partially raised and is covered with fur underneath. Image credit: M. Superina

She says locals are eager to track down any animal, but they have no luck with this one. On rare occasions, individuals captured one of these creatures, but were soon overwhelmed by the challenge of keeping it alive. These captured specimens typically survive for no more than eight days.

Superina had difficulties taking care of one of those stray animals that could not be released into the wild. When not in captivity, Pink Fairies feed primarily on ants and larvae while underground, and have also been known to eat worms, snails, and various insects, and as a last resort, even plant leaves and roots, if none of the former It’s damaged. But this little guy just wouldn’t eat anything. The researcher was desperate.

Eventually, he discovered that the animal would consume a mixture (made of milk, cat food, and exactly half a banana) intended for a different species. However, the next stray animal would not accept the same food. Don’t even think about keeping one as a pet, she says.

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This little sleeping pink fairy was rescued from someone who tried to keep her illegally. Image credit: M. Superina

During the eight months that the animal that tolerated the mixture lived in the terrarium of Superina’s house, infrared cameras captured its elements under the surface of the sand. Biologists previously believed that the species “swam” through the sand, but Superina now claims that it “digs and then piles up and compacts the sand with its plate.”

The video shows a pale, hairy body digging and pounding, digging and pounding. The use of the flattened round back plate in compaction is a unique trait of fairy armadillos.

This rare offering may also have solved a paleontological puzzle. Rows of preciously discovered compacted earth disks resembling fallen slices of bread could actually be the work of the flattened flat plates of ancient fairy armadillos.

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Pink fairy armadillos compact soil as they furrow using their flattened back plates. Image credit: M. Superina

In 2008, the International Union for Conservation of Nature classified the pink fairy armadillo as “data deficient,” and reports of sightings have since decreased. Armadillos are not considered a food source, but there is a dwindling market for keeping them as pets, despite their low survival rate in captivity.

Other potential contributors to declining populations include climate change, pesticide use, large-scale livestock farming, and the growing number of prey domestic cats and dogs.

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Image credit: Vegolosi

Currently, there are no laws in place to protect the animal. Let’s hope that changes soon.

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