Common Name: beautiful armadillo
Dasypus bellus was about two to two and a half times the size of the living nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus).
Their diet was probably similar to the modern species, largely invertebrate animals, but the larger size of the fossil species may have allowed successful capture of small vertebrate animals, such as lizards and ground birds.
- Very early to latest Pleistocene Epoch; late Blancan to the end of the Rancholabrean land mammal ages
- About 2.5 million to 11,000 years ago
Scientific Name and Classification
Dasypus bellus Simpson, 1929
Source of Species Name: from the Latin word bellus, meaning “beautiful” or “pretty”. This is not one of the adjectives usually applied to armadillos, so Simpson was perhaps being ironic in this choice of name; but as he did not state the reason for the name in the original description, we will never know his extact intent.
Classification: Mammalia, Eutheria, Xenarthra, Cingulata, Dasypodoidea, Dasypodidae, Dasypodinae
Alternate Scientific Name: Tatu bellus, Propraopus bellus, Hyperoambon bellus
Overall Geographic Range
Southeastern, south-central, and midwestern United States, including occurrences throughout Florida (Fig. 1) and also in Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, and Texas (Klippel and Parmalee, 1984; Voorhies, 1987; Shubert and Graham, 2000). The type locality is Seminole Field, Pinellas County, Florida.
Florida Fossil Occurrences
Florida fossil sites with Dasypus bellus:
- Alachua County—Arredondo 2A; Haile 2B; Haile 7A; Haile 7C; Haile 7G; Haile 8A; Haile 10D; Haile 11B; Haile 13E; Haile 14A; Haile 14B; Haile 15A; Haile 16A; Haile 16B; Haile 20B; Haile 21A
- Brevard County—Melbourne; Sebastian Canal 2; Tucker Borrow Pit
- Charlotte County—El Jobean Shell Pit; McQueen Shell Pit
- Citrus County—Inglis 1A; Inglis 1C; Inglis 1D; Inglis 1F; Inglis 1G; Inglis 2A; Lecanto 2A; Sabertooth Cave
- Columbia County—Ichetucknee River; Santa Fe River 1; Santa Fe River 2; Santa Fe River 4A; Santa Fe River 8A; Santa Fe River 18
- Dade County—Cutler Hammock Site; Monkey Jungle Hammock 1
- De Soto County—De Soto Shell Pit 5
- Duval County—Jacksonville Beach; St. Johns River Dredgings
- Hardee County—Fort Green Mine; Peace River near Zolfo Springs
- Hillsborough County—Apollo Beach; Leisey Shell Pit 1A; Leisey Shell Pit 2; Leisey Shell Pit 3; Leisey Shell Pit 3A; Leisey Shell Pit 3B; Shell Materials Pit
- Indian River County—Luther Locality, Winter Beach; Vero Canal Site
- Jefferson County—Aucilla River 2P
- Levy County—McLeod Limerock Mine; Waccasassa River 1; Waccasassa River 2; Waccasassa River 3; Waccasassa River 4; Waccasassa River 5A; Waccasassa River 6; Waccasassa River 7; Waccasassa River 9A
- Manatee County—Bradenton Field; Bradenton 51st Street
- Marion County—Eichleberger Cave; Florida Lime Company Mine 2; Kendrick 1A; Mefford Cave 1A; Oklawaha River 1; Oklawaha River 3; Orange Lake 2A; Reddick 1A; Reddick 1B; Reddick 2C; Withlacoochee River 1A
- Nassau County—North Fernandina Beach
- Okeechobee County—Kissimmee River 6
- Orange County—Rock Springs
- Pinellas County—Catalina Gardens; Millennium Park; Seminole Field
- Polk County—Payne Creek Mine; Peace River Mine
- Sarasota County—Macasphalt Shell Pit; Rigby Shell Pit
- Seminole County—Wekiwa River 1
- St. Johns County—Wilson Quarry
- Sumter County—Coleman 2A; Coleman 3A
- Taylor County—Aucilla River 3J
- Volusia County—Daytona Beach Bone Bed
On average, the osteoderms of the shell and the limb bones of Dasypus bellusare about two to two and a half times the size of those of the living nine-banded armadillo Dasypus novemcinctus. Fossils of Dasypus bellus have been found at many types of sites in Florida, including caves, sinkholes, river sites, coastal, and lake deposits. Isolated osteoderms are the most frequent type of fossil found, as is typical with cingulates generally. The two most common types of osteoderms recovered are the hexagonal elements that comprise most of the shoulder (pectoral) and pelvic regions of the carapace, the so-called buckler or immovable osteoderms (Fig. 2A), and the elongate rectangular elements from the movable bands (Fig. 2B), the imbricating or movable osteoderms (Holmes and Simpson, 1931; Hill, 2006). A partial articulated shell (Fig. 3) appears to have only seven or eight movable bands, although detailed study of this crushed specimen is needed to confirm this.
Like Dasypus novemcinctus, Dasypus bellus has small, simple, peg-like teeth (Fig. 4). The more posterior teeth have two flat wear surfaces that meet at a shallow angle, while the more anterior teeth have a single, slanted wear surface. The diet is thought to be similar to the modern species, largely invertebrate animals, but the larger size of the fossil species may have allowed successful capture of small vertebrate animals, such as lizards and ground birds. The skull is fragile and rarely preserves intact. The specimen shown in Figure 5 is the rare exception.
Dasypus bellus is not especially closely related (or ancestral) to Dasypus novemcinctus, but instead likely shares a closer common ancestry with several species of large armadillos from the Pleistocene of South America, including Propraopus sulcatus and Propraopus grandis. This resemblance was noted in Simpson’s original description of the species in 1929, and Dasypus bellus is frequently referred to the genus Propraopus by South American authors (e.g., Pitana and Ribeiro, 2007). However, Rincón et al. (2008) found that features of the osteoderms shared by Dasypus bellus and Propraopus are also present in the largest living species of Dasypus, Dasypus kappleri, from tropical South America. Dasypus bellus and Dasypus kappleri also share a large, unreduced fifth digit on the manus, by which they differ from Dasypus novemcinctus that has a reduced manual fifth digit. As noted by Rincón et al. (2008), Dasypus kappleri is the type species of a generic name (Hyperoambon) that has priority over the genus Propraopus. In a more recent analysis, Castro et al. (2013) disputed a close relationship between Dasypus kappleri and Propraopus, but their study did not include Dasypus bellus.
There is a modest trend for increase in average size from the late Pliocene through the middle Pleistocene for Dasypus bellus (McDonald, 2005), although much less than in some other contemporaneous genera of xenarthrans (notably Holmesina, Megalonyx, and Paramylodon). Because of the apparent small amount of evolutionary change in Dasypus bellus, it is not a valuable species for biochronology.
- Original Author(s): Richard C. Hulbert Jr.
- Original Completion Date: September 12, 2013
- Editor(s) Name(s): Richard C. Hulbert Jr.
- Last Updated On: March 11, 2015
Auffenberg, W. 1957. A note on an unusually complete specimen of Dasypus bellus(Simpson) from Florida. Quarterly Journal Florida Academy of Sciences, 20(4):233-237.
Castro, M. C., A. M. Ribeiro , J. Ferigolo, and M. C. Langer. 2013. Redescription of Dasypus punctatus Lund, 1840 and considerations on the genus Propraopus Ameghino, 1881 (Xenarthra, Cingulata). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 33(2):434-447.
Downing, K. F., and R. White. 1995. The cingulates (Xenarthra) of Leisey Shell Pit 1A (Irvingtonian), Hillsborough County, Florida. Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History 37:375-396.
Hill, R. V. 2006. Comparative anatomy and histology of xenarthran osteoderms. Journal of Morphology 267:1441-1460.
Holmes, W. W., and G. G. Simpson. 1931. Pleistocene exploration and fossil edentates in Florida. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 59(7):383-418.
Klippel, W. E., and P. W. Parmalee. 1984. Armadillos in North American late Pleistocene contexts. Pp. 149-160 in H. H. Genoways and M. R. Dawson (eds.), Contributions in Quaternary Vertebrate Paleontology: a Volume in Memorial to John E. Guilday. Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Special Publication No. 8.
McDonald, H. G. 2005. Paleoecology of extinct xenarthrans and the Great American Biotic Interchange. Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History 45(4):313-333. (Download PDF)
Pitana, V. G., and A. M. Ribeiro. 2007. Novos materiais de Propraopus Ameghino, 1881 (Mammalia, Xenarthra, Cinulata) do Pleistoceno final, Rio Grande do Su, Brasil. Gaea 3(2):60-67.http://www.unisinos.br/publicacoes_cientificas/images/stories/pdf_gaea/vol3n2/60a67_art02_pitana_e_ribeiro_gaea3%5B2%5D.pdf
Rincón, A. D., R. S. White, and H. G. McDonald. 2008. Late Pleistocene cingulates (Mammalia: Xenarthra) from Mene de Inciarte tar pits, Sierra de Perijá, western Venezuela. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 28(1):197-207.
Schubert, B. W., and R. W. Graham. 2000. Terminal Pleistocene armadillo (Dasypus) remains from the Ozark Plateau, Missouri, USA. PaleoBios 20(1):1-6.
Simpson, G. G. 1929. Pleistocene mammalian fauna of the Seminole Field, Pinellas County, Florida. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 56(8):561-599.
Slaughter, B. H. 1961. The significance of Dasypus bellus (Simpson) in Pleistocene local faunas. Texas Journal of Science 13:11-15.
Voorhies, M. R. 1987. Fossil armadillos in Nebraska: the northernmost record. The Southwestern Naturalist 32(2):237-243.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number CSBR 1203222, Jonathan Bloch, Principal Investigator. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.