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Deodicurus

Doedicurus

Deodicurus fighting. Scene from "Walking with Beasts".

There were two animals in South America that could have contended for the title of the mightiest creature of its time. One was the giant glyptodont Deodicurus, a relative of today's armadillo. They were herbivores, grazing or brousing on many different plants. They were the size and weight of a small car (4 meters long and 1,5 meters high, weighing 1,5 tons), with a tail of solid bone, armored with a spiky club at the end. Their carapace or "shell" was made up of bony plates called scutes, fused together, except around the edges to provide some flexibility. They thus almost had the protection of a tortoise except they could not withdraw their head. From fossils found it is deducted that they used their clubs fighting each other as several carapaces have been found with dents matching the spikes on their tails. It is hard to believe that these weird animals were mammals and survived up to as recently as 10 000 years ago! They were also successful migrants to the north, as well preserved fossils have not only been found in South America, but also the southwest of North America. (32)