Glyptodon (Greek for “grooved or carved tooth”) was a large, armored mammal of the family Glyptodontidae, a relative of armadillos that lived during the Pleistocene epoch. It was roughly the same size and weight as aVolkswagen Beetle, though flatter in shape. With its rounded, bony shell and squat limbs, it superficially resembled turtles, and the much earlier dinosaurian ankylosaur, as an example of the convergent evolution of unrelated lineages into similar forms. Glyptodon is believed to have been a herbivore, grazing on grasses and other plantsfound near rivers and small bodies of water.
Glyptodon measured over 3.3 m (10.8 ft) in length and weighed up to 2 tons. It was covered by a protective shell composed of more than 1,000 2.5 cm-thick bony plates, called osteoderms or scutes. Each species of glyptodont had its own unique osteoderm pattern and shell type. With this protection they were armored like turtles. Unlike most turtles, glyptodonts could not withdraw their heads, but instead had a bony cap on the top of their skull. Even the tail ofGlyptodon had a ring of bones for protection. Such a massive shell needed considerable support, evidenced by features such as fused vertebrae, short but massive limbs, and a broad shoulder girdle.
The nasal passage was reduced with heavy muscle attachments for some unknown purpose. Some have speculated that the muscle attachments were for a proboscis, or trunk, much like that of a tapir or elephant. Most animals with a trunk, however, have nasal bones receding back on the skull, and glyptodonts do not have this feature. The lower jaws were very deep and helped support massive chewing muscles to help chew the coarse fibrous plants that can be found along river and lake banks.
(From Wikipedia, October 2013)