Glyptodon (Greek for "carved tooth"); pronounced GLIP-toe-don
Swamps of South America
Pleistocene-Modern (2 million-10,000 years ago)
Size and Weight:
About 10 feet long and one ton
Huge, armored dome on back; short head and neck
One of the most distinctive--and comical-looking--creatures of prehistoric times, Glyptodon was essentially a dinosaur-sized armadillo, with a huge, round, armored carapace, stubby, turtle-like legs, and a blunt head on a short neck. As many commentators have pointed out, this prehistoric mammal looked a bit like a Volkswagen Beetle, and tucked up under its shell it would have been virtually immune to predation (unless an enterprising predator figured out a way to flip it onto its back and dig into its soft belly). The only thing it lacked was a clubbed, spiked tail, a feature evolved by its close relative Doedicurus.
Glyptodon survived well into early historical times, only going extinct about 10,000 years ago, along with most other megafauna of the Ice Age (such as Diprotodon, the Giant Wombat, and Castoroides, the Giant Beaver). This huge, slow-moving armadillo was probably hunted to extinction by early humans, who would have prized it not only for its meat but also for its roomy carapace--there's evidence that the earliest settlers of South America sheltered from the snow and rain under Glyptodon shells!