Tags: ancient | armadillo | argentina

Ancient Armadillo Like a Beetle Tank Tooled Around Argentina

Image: Ancient Armadillo Like a Beetle Tank Tooled Around Argentina

Imagine this one-week-old armadillo being as big as a Volkswagen. (REUTERS/Baz Ratner)

By    |   Tuesday, 23 Feb 2016 09:10 AM

An ancient armadillo the size and weight of a Volkswagen Beetle, with a heavy armored shell and club-shaped tail, roamed South America until its extinction four million years ago, say scientists who were able to sequence its mitochondrial genome.

The ancient glyptodont, ancestor of the present-day armadillo, departed Argentina and rest of the planet during the Ice Age, according to the researchers' findings in the science journal Current Biology.

Glyptodont's fossils were first discovered in South America between 1832 and 1833, and had "fascinated evolutionary biologists because of their remarkable skeletal adaptations and seemingly isolated phylogenetic position even within their natural group," said the study's abstract.

"The data sheds light on the familial relations of an enigmatic creature that has fascinated many but was always shrouded in mystery," said one of the authors, McMaster University's evolutionary geneticist Hendrik Poinar, in a university news release. "Was the glyptodont a gigantic armadillo or weird off-shoot with a fused bony exoskeleton?"

Researchers told BBC News the creature's giant hard shell and other physical attributes are what connect it to the armadillo family.

"Glyptodonts should probably be considered a subfamily of gigantic armadillos," Frederic Delsuc, from the National Centre of Scientific Research and Montpellier University in France, told BBC News.

Along with scientists from Montpelliar and McMaster in Ontario, researchers from Massey University in New Zealand, and the American Museum of Natural History joined in the study.

The team used "novel techniques" to collect and then sequence the complete genome of the glyptodont then confirmed the lineage by comparing it with living counterparts, said the McMaster release.

"Ancient DNA has the potential to solve a number of questions such as phylogenetic position – or the evolutionary relationship – of extinct mammals, but it is often extremely difficult to obtain usable DNA from fossil specimens," said Poinar. "In this particular case, we used a technical trick to fish out DNA fragments and reconstruct the mitochondrial genome."

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An ancient armadillo the size and weight of a Volkswagen Beetle, with a heavy armored shell and club-shaped tail, roamed South America until its extinction four million years ago, say scientists who were able to sequence its mitochondrial genome.
ancient, armadillo, argentina
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2016-10-23
Tuesday, 23 Feb 2016 09:10 AM
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