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Remains of Gigantic Ancient Armadillos Found

A farmer in Argentina recently stumbled across a once-in-a-lifetime finding: A Mareep in Pokémon GO! No, just kidding. The farmer found four ancient armadillos, some of which grew as large as Volkswagen Beetles. Now the prehistoric beasts, and their enormous armored shells, are being excavated.

Metro News reported on the finding, which occurred in Argentina’s capital city, Buenos Aires. Metro News says that, according to local media, the farmer, Juan de Dios Sota, was taking his cows to a nearby field to let them graze when he saw abnormal shapes in a dried riverbed. While he could tell they were remains, they didn’t look like those belonging to cows or horses.

Although it’s unclear exactly how Dios Sota got word out about his strange finding, archeologists soon collected around the site to study what turned out to be the fossilized remains of four glyptodonts—creatures belonging to an extinct subfamily of an armadillo relative, which first evolved during the Miocene (roughly 23 to 5.3 million years ago) in South America.

Ancient Armadillos, Which Could Grow to Size of Cars, Found_1

A glyptodont fossil on display in Brazil. Wilson Dias/Abr

According to the glyptodont wiki, the outsized, ancient armadillo relatives—which could weigh up to 4,400 pounds!—had a “tortoise-like” body armor, armored skin forming “a bony cap” on top of their skulls, and tails that were protected by rings of bone. On top of those protections, at least one species of glyptodont, D. clavicaudatus, had “[a] large mace-like spiked tail that it would have used to defend itself against predators.” (Which really makes them sound Ankylosauresque.)

For those who haven’t heard of glyptodonts, you’ll probably want them on your radar, at least for the party factoid potential they afford. For example, Smithsonian Magazine points out that glyptodonts went extinct at the same time humans arrived in the Americas 10,000 years ago, and there’s apparently evidence that prehistorical peoples used their giant shells as shelters, or even dwellings.

On top of that, the entire mitochondrial genome of the ancient glyptodont has already been sequenced by researchers. It was done so, according to Daily News, in an attempt to decipher the glyptodonts’ “mysterious evolution and remarkable skeletal adaptations [that] have long fascinated and perplexed biologists and geneticists.”

Pablo Messineo, an archaeologist at the National University of the Center of the Buenos Aires working on the excavation, told the media that “[This] is the first time there have been four animals like this in the same site. Most of them were facing the same direction like they were walking towards something.” He added that the group was probably made up of two adults and two younglings.

Moving forward, the archaeologists in charge of excavating the four glyptodonts say they want to conduct further research on the fossils in order to discern the creatures’ ages, sex, and cause of death. (Incidentally, they look too small to have been used as prehistoric condos.)

What do you think about these unearthed armadillo relatives? Do you have any kind of solid guess as to how they died, or are you just pricing out the rent on an ancient glyptodont shell? Excavate your opinions in the comments, people!

Feature image: JAMES D. DANA