What do we know about armadillos? An analysis of four centuries of knowledge about a group of South American mammals, with emphasis on their conservation
- Basic knowledge on the biology and ecology of a species is fundamental for the realistic assessment of its conservation status and for planning effective conservation strategies. The latest assessment of the 21 extant armadillo species (Xenarthra, Dasypodidae) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for its Red List of Threatened Species shows that considerable gaps exist in our knowledge of these Neotropical mammals.
- Our goal was to analyse the existing literature on armadillos to define thematic and regional research priorities that will eventually benefit their conservation.
- We categorized 3117 publications on extant armadillos published between 1660 and 2011 according to their research topic, species studied, country and publication language.
- The number of publications per research topic and the number per species were very variable. The nine best-studied species are classed as Least Concern by the IUCN, while three of the four least-studied species are classed as Data Deficient. At least one field study was done in each range country, but over 80% of field research took place in the USA, Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia. Most research was done in the USA on leprosy in Dasypus novemcinctus. Most ecological research has been focused on four species, and data on the ecology of Data Deficient and Vulnerable taxa are virtually absent.
- Field research on armadillos should be intensified to broaden conservation-relevant knowledge. Additional studies in the Guianas, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Paraguay are urgently needed to assess the conservation status of armadillos in these regions. Future research should focus on ecology, conservation, population genetics, reproduction and threats. Species priorities should include country endemics, such as Dasypus pilosus (Peru), Tolypeutes tricinctus (Brazil) and Dasypus yepesi and Chlamyphorus truncatus (Argentina), as well as other Data Deficient and Vulnerable species, especially Cabassous centralis and Calyptophractus retusus.