Prehistoric Earth Wiki
Dw2.jpg This article is a featured article. This means it is believed to be one of the best articles on the wiki, and was featured on the main page to show this.
Reconstruction of Glyptodon
Vital statistics
Scientific Name Glyptodon
Length 4 metres
Height 1.5 metres
Weight 2 tonnes
Diet Herbivorous
Lived 2.5 million-10,000 years ago
Range South America

Glyptodon ("grooved [or] carved tooth") was a large, armoured mammal that resembled and was a relative of the armadillos. It gave its name to the family of glyptodonts. They lived during the Pliocene and Pleistocene, from about 2.5 million years ago to 10,000 years ago.[1]


Glyptodon looked similar to tortoises or armadillos, although they are only related to the latter. Its most distinguishing feature was a large shell which was composed of over 1000 scutes, each 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) thick. Like human fingerprints, each Glyptodon's scute pattern was different. The tail of Glyptodon was also armoured, though separate from the shell. To support the weight of all this armor, they had massive limbs and a strong shoulder girdle.[2]

A fully grown Glyptodon could reach 4 metres long, 1.5 meters high and 2 tons in weight, about the size and shape of a Volkswagen Beetle automobile.[3]

Glyptodon, and most of the American megafauna, became extinct by about 10,000 years ago. It is believed that humans hunted these animals and used their bony shells as shelters during inclement weather.[4]


As a xenarthan, Glyptodon was related to giant ground sloths such as Megatherium. The group also includes modern sloths, armadillos, and anteaters.[5]Although Glyptodon evolved in South America, it is often depicted with North American animals such as woolly mammoths. This is because when the two continents joined, animals from both areas crossed the bridge and created a new ecosystem. Glyptotherium was a closely related genus of Glyptodon, and did reach North America during this time.[6]


Glyptodon was described by Richard Owen in 1839.[7]


Illustration of humans hunting a Glyptodon by Heinrich Harder


Glyptodon was a omnivore. It had deep jaws with attachments for strong muscles, which would allow it to chew tough plants such as leaves and grass. It sometimes ate small insects as well.

In popular culture[]

Glyptodon was a common subject in books about dinosaurs (despite not being one) and the ice ages, and there are several reconstructions of the animal by paleoartists of the early 20th century. In more recent years, Glyptodon has also appeared in the Ice Age film franchise.


  1. Fidalgo, F., et al. (1986) "Investigaciones arqueológicas en el sitio 2 de Arroyo Seco (Pdo. de Tres Arroyos, prov. de Buenos Aires, República Argentina)" In: Bryan, Alan (ed.) (1986) New evidence for the Pleistocene peopling of the Americas Peopling of the Americas Symposia Series, Center for the Study of Early Man, University of Maine, Orono, Maine. pp. 221-269
  2. David Lambert and the Diagram Group. The Field Guide to Prehistoric Life. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1985. pp. 196. ISBN 0-8160-1125-7
  4. Politis, Gustavo G. and Gutierrez, Maria A. (1998) "Gliptodontes y Cazadores-Recolectores de la Region Pampeana (Argentina)" ("Glyptodonts and Hunter-Gatherers in the Pampas Region (Argentina)") Latin American Antiquity 9(2): pp.111-134 in Spanish
  5. Woodburne, Michael (2010). "The Great American Biotic Interchange: Dispersals, Tectonics, Climate, Sea Level, and Holding Pens". Journal of Mammalian Evolution 17 (4): 245–264. doi:10.1007/s10914-010-9144-8Open Access.
  7. Glyptodon at the Paleobiology Database