Structure and function in armadillo limbs (Mammalia: Xenarthra: Dasypodidae)



Armadillos are a very diverse group ranging from non-fossorial Tolypeutini through to the powerful diggers like the giant armadillo Priodontes maximus to the totally subterranean Chlamyphorini. A previous study demonstrated a close relationship between the relative length of the olecranon of the ulna (index of fossorial ability, IFA) and the fossorial ability of armadillos. This study examines a wide range of limb proportions to explore the biomechanical correlates with fossorial ability. The study demonstrates that the indices of the forelimb (brachial index, shoulder moment index and IFA) do correlate well with digging habits, but also reveals some interesting exceptions, particularly in the most fossorial and most cursorial forms. On the other hand, the hindlimb indices apparently do not correlate with digging habits, but seem to be influenced more by body size. The correlations among the forelimb indices are quite strong and positive but correlations between forelimb and hindlimb indices are negative or very low. It is apparent that there is still much to be learned about structure and function in armadillos.