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How Big Were the Prehistoric Ancestors of Armadillos?

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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