Glyptodonts are heavily armored grazing herbivores (plant-eaters)
that evolved in South America, when it was an island continent,
and when the top predators on the continent were
the giant flightless carnivorous birds
- although it is thought possible that Glyptodonts may also have
been preyed on by Megatherium).
Glyptodonts first appeared during the late
Miocene epoch, perhaps 7 million years ago, and became extinct at about the end
of the last age, probably as recently as 10,000 years ago (most likely
as a result of hunting by humans).
Glyptodonts are related to anteaters, sloths (including Megatherium),
and armadillos. Like many of their relatives, they had
no incisor or canine teeth, although they were equipped with
powerful cheek teeth and muscles which would have been suitable
for grinding up tough vegetation.
The distinctive feature of Glyptodonts is their armor. The tortoise-like
shell is made from bone segments, which each species of Glyptodont
having their own particular design of shell and segments. Even the tail
of the animal was armored, and some species also had a mace-like projection
on their tail, which they could use as a club for self-defense.
The largest genus of the family, Glyptodon, was about the same size, weight,
and general shape as a Volkswagen Beetle car.
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