The Giant armadillo is one of the largest species of armadillos. This animal is easily recognizable due to its powerful, enlarged central claw and the carapace, covered with tough bony scales. Pentagonal scales cover the legs and tail of the animal. The carapace of the Giant armadillo is black or gray on the dorsal part and lighter - on the ventral part of its body, these two parts being separated by a strip. The body underneath the carapace is naked, wrinkly and pinkish in color. The Giant armadillo has conical head and blunt muzzle.
The species is widely distributed over southeastern Venezuela, the Guianas, northeastern Brazil, Paraguay and northern parts of Argentina. Giant armadillos live in a variety of habitats, preferring, however, areas with a large population of termites. They can occasionally be seen in arid and semi-arid woodlands, savannas, tropical and subtropical rainforests as well as Brazilian floodplains.
Giant armadillos are mainly nocturnal animals. The armadillo usually forages alone and socializes only for mating. When another Giant armadillo appears on its home range, this animal does not defend the territory, preferring to simply ignore the intruder. Giant armadillos are terrestrial mammals. They dig large burrows for resting, using their third claws, which act like spades. They can keep balance, standing on their hind legs and tail. Due to this ability,they are able to reach out termite mounds (they frequently use this technique when warding off predators). After destroying the mound, the armadillo will arrange itself under the remains of the mound, staying there for up to 24 hours and then moving on.
Presently, quite a bit is known about the mating habits of this species. Giant armadillos are monogamous, mating once in a breeding season. It's not known if they breed seasonally on not. However: gestation period lasts 4 months, yielding a single baby (rarely – two), which is born with its tough skin and can weigh up to 113 g. After 4-6 weeks, the baby is fully weaned, becoming independent. Sexual maturity is reached at the age of 9-12 months.
Giant armadillo attracts hunters for its meat and primarily – for subsistence. The animal is threatened by loss of habitat due to deforestation. Being considered as a pest, this animal is frequently killed by farmers throughout the area of its habitat. And finally, the species is threatened by illegal trade, being captured and sold to wealthy animal collectors.
Giant armadillos are very rare and patchy distributed.The total number of their population is not known but presently decreasing. On the IUCN Red List, the species is listed as Vulnerable (VU).
Giant armadillo is the key species, controlling the population of termites throughout its range, thus helping the ecosystem keep balance. In addition, due to being strong diggers, these animals greatly contribute to soil aeration.