The pink fairy armadillo (Chlamyphorus truncatus) or pichiciego is the smallest species of armadillo (mammals of the family Dasypodidae, recognized by a bony armor shell), first described by R. Harlan in 1825. This desert-adapted animal is endemic to central Argentina and can be found inhabiting sandy plains, dunes, and scrubby grasslands.
Pink fairy armadillos have small eyes, silky yellowish white fur, and
a flexible dorsal shell that is solely attached to its body by a thin
dorsal membrane. In addition, its spatula-shaped tail protrudes from a vertical plate at the blunt rear of its shell. This creature exhibits nocturnal and solitary habits and has a diet that is mainly composed of insects, worms, snails, and various plant parts.
Study Finds Relationship Between Glyptodonts, Modern Armadillos
New research using a novel technique to recover ancient DNA reveals that the evolutionary history of glyptodonts—huge, armored mammals that went extinct in the Americas at the end of the last ice age—is unexpectedly brief.
The work, published this week in the journal Current Biology by an international team of researchers, confirms that glyptodonts likely originated less than 35 million years ago from ancestors within lineages leading directly to one of the modern armadillo families.
Numerous species of glyptodonts lived in dense forests, open grasslands, and a variety of other ecosystems, occupying a range that stretched from what is now the southern part of the United States to the Patagonia region of South America.
“Although their disappearance has been blamed on human depredation as well as climate change, some species persisted into the early part of the modern epoch, long after the disappearance of mammoths and saber-toothed cats,“ saidRoss D.E. MacPhee, an author on the study and curator in the Museum’s Department of Mammalogy. "Like the loss of giant ground sloths, mastodons, and dozens of other remarkable mammalian species, the precise cause of the New World megafaunal extinctions remains uncertain.”
Although scientists including Charles Darwin collected partial remains of glyptodonts in the early 19th century, at first nobody knew what kind of mammal they represented. It was eventually accepted that glyptodonts must be related in some way to armadillos, the only other New World mammals to develop a protective bony shell. However, because of the many physical differences between these two groups, most paleontologists have held the view that they must have separated very early in their evolutionary history.
To try and clarify this poorly understood history, researchers Frédéric Delsuc of the French National Center for Scientific Research at the University of Montpellier and Hendrik Poinar of McMaster University worked alongside MacPhee to learn what genetic information on these ancient armored animals could reveal.
As is often the case in ancient DNA investigations, fossil genomic material is poorly preserved, and only one sample worked—a carapace fragment of an undetermined species of Doedicurus, a gigantic glyptodont that lived until about 10,000 years ago. Using a novel approach to recover genetic information from ancient specimens, the team successfully assembled the complete mitochondrial genome of Doedicurus and compared it to that of all modern xenarthrans, a group of mammals including armadillos, sloths, and anteaters.
The researchers found that instead of representing a very early, independent branch of armored xenarthrans, glyptodonts likely had a much later origin, from ancestors within lineages leading to the modern armadillo family Chlamyphoridae.
More surprising still, the study finds that the closest relatives of glyptodonts—some species of which may have weighed 2 tons or more—include not only the giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus), which can weigh up to 25 pounds, but also the 4-ounce pink fairy armadillo, or pichiciego (Chlamyphorus truncatus).
“Contrary to what is generally assumed about the distinctiveness of glyptodonts, our analyses indicate that they originated only some 35 million years ago, well within the armadillo radiation,” Delsuc said. “Taxonomically, they should be regarded as no more than another subfamily of armadillos, which we can call Glyptodontinae.”
Existe un armadillo de color rosa, llamado comúnmente pichiciego o armadillo hada rosa (Truncatus chlamyphorus) . Este animal peculiar tiene su hábitat en las llanuras arenosas de Argentina, donde excavan las cuevas donde viven.
Tienen una media de longitud que va desde los 6 hasta aproximadamente los 10 centímetros, desde el hocico a la cola.
Before J. M. Barrie introduced us to the charmingly cranky and vindictive Tinker Bell, fairies had traditionally been cast as vicious scoundrels hell-bent on stealing your kids and tearing up that lawn you paid so much money for. Today the fairy is a decidedly more whimsical, endearing creature, and nowhere is it more legendary than in the deserts of Argentina.
Here dwells the remarkable pink fairy armadillo (Chlamyphorus truncatus), a 5-inch-long, quarter-pound critter with a rosy shell atop silky white hair. This smallest of all armadillos spends almost its entire life burrowing through the earth, hunting various invertebrates and chewing up plant matter. It is a rarely seen, almost totally unstudied marvel — what you read here is pretty much all we’ve observed about the pink fairy armadillo.
So exactly how elusive are they? Conservation biologist Mariella Superina of Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council has been studying other armadillos in the pink fairy’s habitat for 13 years and has never once seen one in the wild. And locals can’t tell her how to track them. The only specimens she gets are injured ones found and brought in for rehabilitation or those confiscated from chuckleheads keeping them as pets.
Unlike in all other armadillos, the pink fairy’s shell is not fully attached to its body, instead connecting with a membrane that runs along the spinal column. The thin carapace’s underlying blood vessels actually show through, giving it that beautiful hue that you’re now reconsidering being beautiful because it’s made of blood.