Temporal range: Pleistocene (Uquian-Lujanian)
~2.500–0.011 Ma
Fossil specimen at the Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna
Scientific classification e
Owen, 1839[1]
  • G. clavipes Owen, 1839 (type)
  • G. elongatus Burmeister, 1866
  • G. euphractus Lund, 1839
  • G. munizi Ameghino, 1881
  • G. petaliferus Cope, 1888[2]
  • G. reticulatus Owen, 1845
  • G. rivapacis Hay, 1923[3]

Glyptodon (from Greek for "grooved or carved tooth": γλυπτός "sculptured" and ὀδοντ-, ὀδούς "tooth")[4] was a genus of large, heavily armored mammals of the subfamily Glyptodontinae (glyptodonts or glyptodontines) – relatives of armadillos – that lived during the Pleistocene epoch. It was roughly the same size and weight as a Volkswagen Beetle, though flatter in shape. With its rounded, bony shell and squat limbs, it superficially resembled a turtle, and the much earlier dinosaurian ankylosaur – providing an example of the convergent evolution of unrelated lineages into similar forms.[5][6] In 2016 an analysis of Doedicurus mtDNA found it was, in fact, nested within the modern armadillos as the sister group of a clade consisting of Chlamyphorinae and Tolypeutinae.[7][8] For this reason, glyptodonts and all armadillos but Dasypus were relocated to a new family, Chlamyphoridae, and glyptodonts were demoted from the former family Glyptodontidae to a subfamily.


Although Darwin is said to have found the first fossils of glyptodontines (the subfamily), the first mention of the genus Glyptodon in Europe was in 1823, from the first edition of Cuvier's "Ossemens Fossiles".[9] The then unnamed Glyptodon was briefly mentioned in a letter from Dámaso Antonio Larrañaga. He had found "a femur... It was about seven pounds, and maybe six or eight inches wide", as well as part of a tail.[9] At the time, the discovery was believed to have belonged to Megatherium, a type of giant ground sloth. A man named Sellow found some carapace plates in three-foot deep clay in Uruguay four years later. That discovery only made the professors even more certain that the discoveries were of Megatherium, since the bones of this prehistoric giant sloth were usually found in similar conditions and Cuvier had said that the genus was loricated.[9]

Some believed that the armor resembled that of the modern armadillo, but the popular opinion was the Megatherium theory. It was not until Professor E. D’Alton wrote a memoir to the Berlin Academy in 1833 comparing the extreme similarities of these mysterious fossils to that of the armadillo, that the scientific world seriously considered that the pieces of carapaces and fragments of bone could belong to some prehistoric version of Dasypus. D’Alton said that "all the peculiarities of the former [Dasypus] may be paralleled to the latter [fossil pieces]"[9] He concluded that the fossils belonged to some prehistoric version of an armadillo. However, since a full skeleton was not available at the time, he said that his idea was not conclusive. This uncertainty in the fossil remains continued until a man named Dr. Lund identified the remains as a new genus in his 1837 memoir.[9]

Naming of Glyptodon

Richard Owen's 1839 reconstruction of a Glyptodon skeleton; teeth at right

When scholars first acknowledged the genus Glyptodon, there was not a consensus on its name. In 1837 Dr. Lund, a professor who wrote a memoir on Brazil’s ancient fauna, suggested these creatures be recognized as the new genus "Hoplophorus". In 1838, another scientist, Professor Bronn, published in the second edition of his book Lethaea Geognostica a proposal for the new genus to be called "Chlamydotherium". In Professor D’Alton’s 1839 memoir, it was called "Pachypus". The director at the Museum of Natural History in Dijon at the time, M.L. Nodot, had named the genus "Schistopleuron".[10]

It was finally given a single name when English scholar Richard Owen noticed the similarities of the genera his colleagues were describing in their publications. Owen realized they were all the same genus from their depictions, from carapace to tooth structure. He decided on "Glyptodon", which means "grooved or carved tooth". The name was originally coined by Sir Woodbine Parish, the man who had sent some Glyptodon fossils to Europe. Those fragments of carapace and bones he sent had been heavily studied at the time and had assisted in the recognition of the new genus.[10]

After unifying the name of this genus, Owen continued working on its taxonomy. In 1845, after analyzing the fossils of his colleagues, he named four species within the genus: G. clavipes, G. reticulatus, G. ornatus, and G. tuberculatus.[10]

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فارسی: شیاردندان
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русский: Глиптодоны
Simple English: Glyptodon
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中文: 雕齒獸