Armadillo Courtship Is the Joy of the Chase—and the Catch

Instinct drives these armored animals to have sex on the run—and they’ll need to keep running to replenish the ranks of their at-risk species.

The mammal lineage of Xenarthra—sloths, anteaters, and armadillos—has inhabited the Western Hemisphere since Paleocene times, some 65 million years ago. Clearly, they’ve been perpetuating their species, but scientists rarely catch them in the act.

Brazilian ecologist Nina Attias has. She’s spent years studying three of the 20 species of armadillos. Her doctoral research focused on Euphractus sexcinctus, aka the yellow, or six-banded, armadillo (above), whose courtship rituals she has observed and filmed.

In the Pantanal wetlands of Brazil, yellow armadillo amour blooms year-round. When males catch the scent of a female in estrus, they approach, and “she just starts running,” Attias says. “You’ll see a female running like crazy and a bunch of males chasing her.” Once a swift suitor manages to mount the female, “coitus actually happens while they’re running,” Attias says.

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