Peltephilus - The Horned Armadillo
Skull located in the Museo Histórico Nacional, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
When:Oligocene to Miocene (~29 to 15 million years ago)
Where: South America
What: Peltephilus is a primitive armadillo. This is the only known armadillo with horns, and one of only two known horned fossorial (digging) mammals. The other is Ceratogaulus, a gopher that lived somewhat contemporaneously in North America. Like Ceratogaulus, the horns of Peltephilus were for defensive purposes, and were not useful in either digging or for battles between individuals. Peltephilus was once proposed to have been a fast running meat eating armadillo, but more recent and in-depth studies have countered these claims and instead demonstrated that this 3 feet (~1 meter) long armadillo was indeed a digging herbivore like most known armadillos.
Peltephilus is the basal most armadillo known. One of its most obvious primitive features is that it has a full compliment of teeth in the front of its mouth that contact one another. All other armadillos have reduced anterior dentition and thus ‘spouts’ at the front of the mouths. These front teeth were the source for the early ideas of carnivory in this species. Even though Peltephilus was primitive in this, and other cranial and skeletal features, it is still highly derived and, well, already armadillo like in many other aspects, most notably its well developed carapace.