London, August 26 (ANI): A new research has shown that an ancestor of the armadillo had a secret weapon in the form of a spiked club tail that it could use like a medieval mace to kill predators 23 million years ago.
Known as 'glyptodonts', the animals were clumsy armadillo-like creatures covered with a thick tortoise-like shell that roamed the planet up to 23 million years ago.
But they had a hidden skill that kept their enemies at bay - a bony tail 'club' that could be used as weapons to hit rivals with deadly accuracy.
According to a report in The Telegraph, new research shows the tail was finely adapted to deliver accurate powerful blows with the largest spike - just like the "sweet spot" of a cricket or baseball bat.
Dr Rudemar Ernesto Blanco, a physicist, and his colleagues were inspired by previous studies on baseball bats to calculate the position of the "sweet spot" - or "centre of percussion" - of the tail club of several species of glyptodonts.
"We found in several of the large species the centre of percussion was almost at the same position of the largest spike in the tail," he said.
"These spikes were probably useful to increase the damage during a tail blow like those in the middle age spiked mace," he added.
"Our new results suggest the tail club was finely adapted to deliver accurate powerful blows with that large spike - in the way tennis rackets and baseball bats are better fit to hit at the 'sweet spot'," he explained.
According to Dr Blanco, of the Faculty of Science in Montevideo, Uruguay, "We concluded several large species of glyptodonts used the tail clubs mainly for powerful blows in ritualised fighting but the small species used the tail clubs also in other situations as defence against predators."
Glyptodonts died out at the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago were much larger relatives of the modern armadillo.
They originated in South America and spread northwards as far as southern North America.
It is believed they inhabited the emergent vegetation along the edges of water as they were herbivorous.
They would have been slow moving creatures that relied heavily on their thick armour to stave off predators.
"The present study reinforces the idea of the presence of spikes or other horny structures wuth similar function for several species of glyptodonts," Dr Blanco said. (ANI)