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Giant Armadillos

February 23, 2016

DNA evidence reveals that the enormous armored glyptodont, an extinct South American mammal, was a close cousin to modern armadillos.


Glyptodont Artist Carl Buell

An artists’ rendition of an extinct Glyptodont (Carl Buell)


A two-ton armadillo. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Take a Volkswagen Beetle, give it a furry head and a spiky tail, and you’ve got a pretty good picture of a glyptodont. These two-ton mammals lumbered across South America until about ten-thousand years ago. McMaster University researcher Hendrik Poinar and his colleagues report in the journal Current Biology on new DNA analysis revealing that the massive creatures were close cousins to modern armadillos.

HENDRIK POINAR (McMaster University):

You have them sitting somewhere between the fairy armadillos which are these tiny little cute creatures that have basically no protection and you wonder how they’ve made it this far through evolutionary history, and on the other side of that you have the giant armadillos, which are the biggest of armadillo families.


He says why the glyptodonts and so many other mammals grew to such gargantuan proportions several million years ago is still a mystery. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.