How Big Were the Prehistoric Ancestors of Armadillos?

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  • Last Modified Date: 13 March 2020
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The word armadillo means "little armored one" in Spanish, but there was nothing little about the Glyptodon, an enormous ancestor of the modern-day armadillo. The heavily armored mammals, which lived during the Pleistocene epoch, originated in South America. On average, they stood nearly 5 feet (1.5 m) tall, stretched 11 feet (3.3 m) long, and weighed 2 tons; in other words, they were roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, and arguably just as useful. Archaeologists have uncovered some evidence that humans used their bony shells for shelter, in order to protect them from the elements.

Mysterious megafauna:

  • Glyptodons were just one example of prehistoric megafauna, which also included Megatherium, the giant ground sloth, and Smilodon, the saber-toothed tiger.

  • Most of North and South America's Ice Age megafauna died out around 12,700 years ago.

  • The Glyptodon's protective shell consisted of over 1,000 bony plates, which were necessary to protect it from predators such as saber-toothed cats, giant short-faced bears, and large carnivorous birds.

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