|Illustration of a skeleton|
Doedicurus was a prehistoric glyptodont, living during the Pleistocene until the end of the last glacial period, some 11,000 years ago in South America. Its name means "pestle tail", referring to how, if the spikes were removed from the end of the tail, it would resemble a pestle. The type species is D. clavicaudatus. This was the largest known glyptodont, and one of the better-known members of the South American Pleistocene megafauna.
D. clavicaudatus inhabited woodlands and grasslands and was herbivorous. With a height of 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) and an overall length of around 4 metres (13 ft), it could reach a mass of approximately 1,910 to 2,370 kilograms (1.91 to 2.37 t). It had a huge domed carapace that was made of many tightly fitted scutes, somewhat similar to that of its modern-day relative, the armadillos. Its tail was surrounded by a flexible sheath of bone and had long spikes or knobs on the end, at least in male individuals. The carapace was firmly anchored to the pelvis but loose around the shoulder. Its front bore an additional smaller dome. This has been interpreted as a fat-filled space, similar to a camel's hump, which would have stored energy for the dry season and cushioned blows of the tail of rival animals.
Fossils of D. clavicaudatus are found in South America, especially in the Luján Formation in Argentina. Other fossil remains have been found in the San José and Dolores Formations of Uruguay and in Santa Vitória do Palmar, Brazil. Given the late date of its disappearance, it was encountered and probably also hunted by the first human settlers of South America.
Use of tail club
Its tail club was probably used in intraspecific conflict rather than defense against predators like Smilodon, in contrast to the superficially similar club of the ankylosaurs, which are thought to have been used to defend against predatory dinosaurs. For one thing, the latter use would have been difficult since the animal's field of vision was so limited that it would essentially have had to blindly thrash the tail club. In addition, carapaces have been found which show fractures that were produced by roughly the same amount of energy as could be produced by the tail muscles.
Notes and references
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- "Doedicurus in the Paleobiology Database". Fossilworks. Retrieved 2016-12-08.
- Soibelzon, L. H.; Zamorano, M.; Scillato-Yané, G. J.; Piazza, D.; Rodriguez, S.; Soibelzon, E. &; Beilinson, E. (2012). "Un Glyptodontidae de gran tamaño en el Holoceno temprano de la Región Pampeana, Argentina" (PDF). Revista Brasileira de Paleontología, Sociedade Brasileira de Paleontología, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (in Spanish). 15 (1): 105–112.
- Alexander, R. M.; Fariña, R. A.; Vizcaíno, S. F. (May 1999). "Tail blow energy and carapace fractures in a large glyptodont (Mammalia, Xenarthra)". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 126 (1): 41–49. doi:10.1006/zjls.1997.0179.