When you read the word “farm” what do you think of? Acres of green pastures and a red barn? Maybe some cattle and tractors? If this is what you pictured, then it’s safe to say that you have a pretty standard idea of all the things that can be found on a farm. If you’re Argentinian farmer Juan de Dios Sota, you can add one more item to this list.
One day he came across an unusually large mass sticking up from the ground. So he did what anyone else would so and notified local archeologists. Before Juan knew it, his farm was taken over by scientists dying to get a glimpse of his once-in-a-lifetime discovery.
What did he discover, you ask? Let’s take a look!
One morning, Juan took his cows out to graze near a river next to his farm. But just as he gazed out at the river, he noticed some odd formations sticking out of a dried-out riverbed. So Juan called up a group of local archeologists to come and take a look. Not knowing what to expect, the archeologists began to dig.
They soon realized that Juan discovered a group of rare fossils belonging to glyptodons, which are ancient ancestors of the modern-day armadillo. Pablo Messineo, one of the archeologists working on the project, told reporters that they expected to find two glyptodons, but as they continued to dig, they actually found two more.
Glyptodons are ancient ancestors of modern-day armadillos that lived mainly in North and South America over 20,000 years ago. Not much is known about this species, except for it went extinct during the last ice age over 10,000 years ago. From different fossil discoveries and studies, scientists know that these ancient mammals were covered in a protective armor that is very similar to a modern-day turtle.
The protective shell is around two inches thick and five feet long. The glyptodon also had a tail with spikes, which scientists believe was used for protection against predators. While glyptodons were huge (roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle), they were gentle giants and only ate plants.
The four glyptodon fossils found on Juan’s farm were all facing the same way, leading experts to believe they were a family traveling together. Scientists plan on conducting further tests to determine the mammals’ age, gender, and cause of death. This was not the first time a discovery like this was made in Argentina.
In 2015, another farmer found what seemed to be a glyptodon fossil. But since the prehistoric shell was never officially studied by archeologists, it isn’t counted as a fossil discovery. However, many experts have seen pictures of the shell and believe that it belongs to a glyptodon. Archeologists also found additional fossils in Brazil and Uruguay.