Did you know that armadillos always have four young, and they are all identical, all the same sex and genetically alike? All four come from the same egg, which divides into four embryos. This makes them good lab animals, because where else are you going to get four genetically identical siblings every time? You've got your experimental animals and your control in one litter. However, though they quickly become tame, they don't do very well in captivity.
They're also sought after and captured because armadillos can catch and carry leprosy, so a great deal of what we know about transmission of this disease comes from armadillo research. People go out with nets and catch 'dillos and sell them to labs. Unfortunately, people who handle a lot of armadillos sometimes get leprosy from them, yuccch. The armadillo has a weak immune system and an extraordinarily low body temperature -92 to 95 degrees, which is thought to make them susceptible to leprosy. Reason enough not to keep a pet armadillo!
Leprosy, a dreadful lesiony lumpy skin disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae and M. lepromatosis, is now treatable with a multi-drug regime of rifampicin, dapsone, and clofazimine given over 12 months. However, the Third World still hosts leper colonies where people suffering from the disease are segregated--over 1,000 colonies exist in India alone. I flew over an island that's given over to people suffering from leprosy in Guyana, in South America. It's still part of the reality for many less affluent countries. That hit me hard, circling over that island just an ocean away from Florida, but decades removed in medical advancement. We are incredibly fortunate in the U.S. I try never to forget that.
Armadillos sleep up to 16 hours a day. Maybe this is why I'd never seen one until this trip to Florida. I've been all over south Texas too, but no go until now. As the kids and I headed to the beach one evening, I saw the trundling shape of my first 'dillo near a busy intersection. I whooped with joy and pulled over to document it.