6 Animals Born With Natural Armor Suits

Animals Born With Natural Armor Suits

In the animal kingdom, armor comes in handy as a defensive mechanism against predators and environmental threats. Unlike human armor that’s manufactured, some animals have evolved to develop natural armor over millions of years.

These built-in body shields and protective layers allow them to withstand attacks and injuries. They also provide camouflage advantages to avoid detection.

In this blog post, we will share a list of 6 animals that were born with naturally armer suits that protect them from different environmental dangers and conditions.

6 Incredible Animals Born with Natural Armor Suits

1. Armadillos

Armadillos are most famous for their bony armor shell that wraps around their body. This protective casing is made up of ossified dermal bones covered in thick, leathery skin.

There are 21 existing species of armadillos, and they can all roll up into armored balls when threatened. Their armor works as a shield against the claws and teeth of predators.

The nine-banded armadillo has the most flexibility and can tuck its head and legs in to be entirely enclosed in its shell. Other armadillos have less flexible bands limiting their ability to roll up completely.

Armadillos use their sharp claws to dig quick burrows where they can hide from danger. Their armor suit, flexibility, and digging capabilities make them well-equipped to escape predators.

2. Pangolins

Pangolins

 

Pangolins, also known as scaly anteaters, are the only mammals in the world to be completely covered in protective scales made of keratin – the same material found in rhino horns and human fingernails.

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These large, overlapping plate-like scales act as a natural suit of armor from head to tail against predators like big cats, hyenas, and wild dogs. When threatened, pangolins can roll up into tight balls exposing only their scales for defense.

Their scales account for about 20% of their weight. As the pangolin grows, it sheds its scales annually and grows new ones. Though tough, their scales provide flexibility for burrowing and climbing trees where they sleep and give birth. Sadly, their scales are highly sought after in illegal wildlife trade.

There are 8 existing pangolin species spanning Asia and Africa that range from vulnerable to critically endangered status due to poaching and habitat loss.

3. Crocodiles

Crocodiles

Crocodiles have thick, armored skin covering their entire body. Their skin tissue contains bony plates called scutes or osteoderms made of keratin layered over connective tissue and bone.

These plates overlap each other similar to shingles on a roof and act as a tough protective shield, especially on the animal’s back. Crocodiles can withstand attacks from other aggressive crocs due to this tough hide.

On some parts of their body, crocodile skin is as thick as a phone book which cushions their vital organs. Only their bellies have a soft spot as crocs use their hard armored bodies to intimidate rivals and defend themselves. Their fearsome armor contributes to their position as apex predators.

There are 23 species of crocodiles that evolved during the Late Cretaceous period about 84 million years ago – predating dinosaurs.

4. Turtles

Turtles

A turtle’s top armor is its upper shell, called the carapace made of 60 bones covered in scales and plates that develop from their ribs. Below is its lower shell, called the plastron, made of large plates that grow from the collarbone and shoulder.

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This two-part shell securely encases a turtle’s inner organs and is an integral part of its vertebral skeleton with about 50-60 bones. Though heavy and restrictive, it acts as a protective fortress against predators. When threatened, a turtle can retract its neck and limbs entirely inside its shell.

Their shells come in different shapes, sizes, and colors depending on species. The armored shell has played a key role in the evolutionary success of turtles for over 220 million years allowing them to colonize diverse habitats from deserts to oceans. Of the 356 known turtle species, about 61% are estimated to be threatened or already extinct.

5. Ostracods

Ostracods

Ostracods, also called seed shrimp or mussel shrimp, are a class of tiny crustaceans ranging from 0.2 mm to 30 mm covered in a protective shell. Their hard shells have two hinged halves known as valves, similar to clams, that enclose the animal’s body.

These shells are made of calcium carbonate and protect their soft bodies and appendages from predators. When threatened, ostracods can quickly snap their shells shut by closing their valves. There are almost 70,000 known fossil and living ostracod species dating back 500 million years, making them one of the most diverse groups on Earth.

These small armored invertebrates live in various aquatic and semiaquatic environments on all continents, including oceans, lakes, rivers, ponds, swamps, and moist terrestrial environments.

Most ostracods are bottom dwellers and swim upside down using appendages under their shells. Though microscopic, their tiny shells are very useful climate indicators in sedimentary records.

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6. Glyptodonts

Glyptodonts

Though extinct, Glyptodonts were gigantic armadillo ancestors that lived in South America for about 5 million years during the Pleistocene Epoch. About the size of small cars, these heavily armored mammals weighed up to 2 tons with thick, domed shells.

Their shell was made of hundreds of small polygonal plates tightly joined together over a skin ossified with bone.

It covered their back, sides, tail, and parts of their neck and head – making them look like walking tanks. When threatened, glyptodonts could retract their head and sturdy legs into their protective shell.

Unlike other mammals, glyptodonts had no teeth; instead, they had a large flat beak and tongue. They grazed on plants and possibly used their spiked tail club both for self-defense and digging. Sadly, glyptodonts died off around 10,000 years ago likely due to climate change and hunting by early humans.

Key Takeaways:

  • Armadillos, pangolins, crocodiles, turtles, ostracods, and glyptodonts (extinct) evolved natural body armor for protection.
  • These inbuilt defense shields include scales, thick skin, plates, shells, and scutes made of bone, keratin, calcium, and dermal skin tissue.
  • Armor allows them to withstand attacks from predators and cushion against injury. It also provides camouflage advantages.
  • Natural armor contributes to their survival, allowing them to live in diverse environments as apex predators for millions of years.

Nature has produced some incredibly armored animals that are fortified with built-in protection through scales, plates, thick skin, shells, and scutes.  These complex defense suits help explain their evolutionary success and resilience, allowing them to thrive as apex predators for millions of years across diverse habitats from ancient seas to modern deserts.

Sadly, many armored species now face declining populations due to habitat loss, climate change, poaching, and hunting pressures. Preserving these animals ensures we continue benefiting from nature’s marvels of organic armor engineering.