John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

Armadillos in the news

It's been said before, but armadillos really are the best of all animals:

In the presentation, Emerling and Springer propose that the nine-banded armadillo can be used as a model organism for achromatopsia and progressive cone dystrophy research. Both diseases involve the degeneration of cone cells in the retina of the eye, cells that normally contribute to the colorful, sharp images typically associated with vision.

"Those afflicted have completely colorless, low-resolution vision in the dark and blindness during the day, rendering their vision practically useless in most day-to-day activities," Emerling said.

Emerling and Springer examined the cone-specific genes of the nine-banded armadillo and discovered that these species completely lack cones.

"As a result, they can be used to search for new genes involved in these diseases, see how the condition progresses developmentally, and experimented on with gene replacement therapies, in hopes of further understanding and potentially finding cures," Emerling said.

Best in the sense that they may be of use in researching these particular vision disorders, not that they're functionally blind. And also in the sense that they are helpful to other animals!

Like phantoms of the Amazon, giant armadillos are barely known and rarely seen, as they dig deep burrows to hide themselves during the day and only come out at night.

Growing up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) long from snout to tail, these armadillos are always on the move, and generally only stay in their 16-foot-deep (5 m) holes for two nights before excavating new ones. New research shows that these burrows are surprisingly important for other animal communities in the area and provide shelter for at least 25 other species, from tortoises to lesser anteaters.

"Giant armadillos are like 'ecosystem engineers,' providing homes for many other animals," said Arnaud Desbiez, a conservation officer with The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland who is based in southwestern Brazil's Pantanal, the world's largest freshwater wetland, where the study was conducted.

Plus they're super cute, and Clint Eastwood thinks they're cool:

Clint Eastwood holding an armadillo

I trust I've proved my point.

Tags: armadillos, current events

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