CARBONDALE, Ill. — A professor at Southern Illinois University has launched a new study investigating the curious case of an armadillo’s northern migration.
According to associate zoology professor F. Agustin Jimenez, there are 23 species of armadillo in the southern hemisphere. Only one of them, the nine-banded armadillo, is moving northward. They’ve even been spotted in Mount Vernon in south-central Illinois.
“They have expanded quite rapidly. At the end of the 19th century they were making it into Texas. By the middle of the 20th century they were into Florida, Georgia, all of the Gulf Coast States were populated by armadillos,” Jimenez said.
He tells the Southern Illinoisan (http://bit.ly/223MqOF) that “warmer and shorter winters” might have facilitated their survival in the northern hemisphere. Scientists originally thought the migrating armadillos would die in the cold winters. But, now, armadillos are being spotted in early spring.
“What I want to know is how do they spend the winter,” Jimenez said. “They must spend their time here. They must go underground. I don’t know how deep they go. Either they find a mother lode of beetles or they hibernate.”
Armadillos only eat insects. As such, their presence doesn’t appear to be a threat to any native species. And with no natural predators in this area, Jimenez said their populations are increasing rapidly.
The professor’s own study specifically looks at the types of parasites the armadillos are carrying into the region.
Information from: Southern Illinoisan, http://www.southernillinoisan.com