Miracles of Weird: The Pink Fairy Armadillo
By Lenny Pierce on January 31, 2014
Either the first one observed was flying around granting wishes or they were named by a 6-year-old girl… regardless, the male pink fairy armadillos can’t be happy about their name. But the strangeness of this subterranean critter goes farther than its nomenclature: The potato-sized armadillo has a myriad of strange adaptations that scientists are still struggling to understand.
Unlike the more recognizable nine-banded armadillo, the pink fairy’s outer shell is not securely fastened to its body. Instead, the pink fairy’s scaly covering is only attached to its body by a thin membrane running down the length of its spine. Also unlike the nine banded armadillo, the pink fairy’s shell is not hard, but relatively fragile and flexible. These traits, along with the density of blood vessels in the shell, lead scientist to believe that the pink fairy actually uses this organ for thermoregulation, much like elephants, fennec foxes, and Will Smith do with their large ears.
Since underground tunnels aren’t equipped with AC, the pink fairy must pump blood in and out of its highly vascular shell to control its body temperature. (M. Superina)
Usually needing to blend in with their environments, most prey species are not brightly colored like the the pink fairy. How then, does the pink fairy pull off its daring shade of puce? Well, a flashy appearance is not such a death mark when you spend nearly all of your time underground, which scientists suspect the pink fairy armadillos do. Indoor kids take note: this can be considered conclusive proof that never going outside has its benefits.
The oddest of the pink fairy’s adaptations are those which have evolved to a life of constant digging. Its forelimbs are so evolved for digging, in fact, that the pink fairy cannot walk very well on flat land. Picture Edward Scissorhands trying to type; just doesn’t work. While its forelimbs are busy digging, the pink fairy’s club-like tail acts as a third leg upon which the animal can stabilize itself. As the pink fairy digs its tunnel, it shuffles the loose dirt behind itself and uses its angled “butt plate” to push it further out of the way.
This view of the pink fairy’s posterior shows both the stabilizing tail and the angled “butt plate” used to pack dislodged soil behind it in the tunneling process. (M. Superina)
Perhaps the strangest thing about the pink fairy is how little we know about it. Even scientists specializing in this odd little beast are unsure of its population figures. For all we know, it could be on the brink of extinction or more populous than human beings – the latter of which could make for a terrifying/adorable uprising in which the pink fairies burst from the earth and take over our civilizations.