Amazing Armored Animals: Fascinating Facts All Kids Will Love

Joan Agie
Oct 17, 2023 By Joan Agie
Originally Published on Oct 26, 2021
A porcupine is armored with spikes.

Armor can be used in offense or defense by an animal.

Horns, claws, antlers, beaks, hooves, clubs, and pincers can be classified as offensive armor. The armor found in mammals, however, is not as sturdy as those found in reptilian species.

Quills, shells, and scales are also classified as armor. These are used in defense against predators.

A combination of both offensive and defensive armor, which makes an animal almost unassailable. Often the armor may be a significant portion of the total weight in animals.

However, in the case of animals like the pangolin, the armor itself has proven to be detrimental. Pangolins are one of the most extensively hunted species in the world now. They are hunted for their meat, which is considered to be a delicacy, and are highly sought after for their scales.

The scales of the pangolin are used in medicine, especially traditional medicine, and folk remedies. They are used to supposedly cure ailments like rheumatism, asthma, and arthritis.

No wonder there is a huge illegal trade surrounding the species. Countries around the globe are trying to protect the species by enforcing national and international laws against poaching these innocent creatures.

Like reading about these animals? Let's move on and explore further. You may also like to read about Indian pangolin facts and asexual animals, here on Kidadl.

Why do some animals have armor?

What is the need for armor? Armor on an animal's body helps to protect it from predators and the harsh conditions of the environment. In prehistoric times, the dinosaurs had massive armor on their bodies.

Hedgehogs, which belong to the Erinaceidae family curl themselves into a ball in order to protect the vulnerable parts of their bodies when they feel threatened. While curling, they expose the part of the body that has sharp and stiff spines.

The porcupine has sharp quills on its body. The quills stay flattened when the animal is relaxed.

However, when the porcupine feels threatened, it erects the quills as a defense mechanism. Big predators like the lion, the tiger, or the leopard have often received a sharp jab of the quills when they have attacked the porcupine.

In some cases, the injury has proved to be fatal as well. These quills are often found on the ground in forests and fields where the porcupine lives.

Turtles, tortoises, and terrapins are amongst the sea animals that have protective armor. The olive ridley turtle is named after the olive greenish hue on its shell.

In the same way, the leatherback turtle is named after the leathery feature of its shell. The tortoise may be slow in its movements on land, however, its shell protects it from much faster predators in the ocean.

How many species of animals have armor on them?

Does the question arise which animals have armors? Many species of animals have armor on them. Mammals, reptiles, mollusks and echinoderms, fish, insects, and arthropods have body armor.

Beetles have body armor too. This unique insect has two pairs of wings. The front pair has hardened to form a protective sheath around the insect.

Some beetles have also been named after their protective sheaths. Tortoise beetles are so named because their exoskeleton is a dome shape. Elephant beetles are massive in size (amongst insects) and have horns that protrude.

Stag beetles have jaws that look similar to antlers. Interesting, isn't it? The armadillos are another interesting species.

The armadillo has armor covering the body. It also has small legs. There are nine extinct genera of the armadillos.

When the armadillo feels threatened, it rolls itself up, similar to a hedgehog. This mechanism helps it to survive in the wild and hold its fort against predators.

Amongst the reptiles, an example of the turtle can be given. Turtles and tortoises have shells on the outer structure which protects their vulnerable parts. Crabs and lobsters at sea are covered in hard exoskeletons.

These are used in defense against a predator and help the creatures to survive and not fall prey to other marine animals. Mollusks have shells as well. Fish are covered in scales and use them for protection, the cosmoid, the placoid, and the granoid.

Fish like the stickleback also use their spines as a form of protection. Echinoderms like the sea urchins are the porcupines of the ocean. They have soft bodies, however, they also have an array of poisonous spines which they use to protect themselves.

How does the Pangolin use its armor?

The pangolin is pretty famous for its strong armor. So how is it useful to the mammal? The word pangolin means roller in Malay.

It is an apt name for the mammal. The mighty armor is the only form of protection for the pangolin as it has no teeth. What’s fascinating is that even big cats cannot penetrate this mighty armor.

The pangolin is a beautiful mammal that is mostly nocturnal. The species is highly elusive, and it’s extremely difficult to predict their exact population in the wild.

The creatures have short legs and sharp claws. The Pangolin uses its armor for protection. It protects and shields the body from approaching danger and predators.

They are hunted for their meat and scales. It is believed that the pangolin and the armadillo have the strongest natural armor in the animal kingdom. Despite the scaly armor, pangolins and armadillos are pretty flexible in their movements.

There are eight species of pangolins found in the continents of Asia and Africa. Pangolins are also known as the scaly anteaters.

They are known to prey on ants and insects. The pangolin's body resembles a pine cone, and its body armor is made of thick scales that overlap.

When the pangolin feels threatened it curls itself up into a ball. In this form, the tail is used to protect its head and face. The tail is also used to lash out at a predator.

The thick scales are tough and sharp. It proves to be an incredible defense mechanism against a predator. It is believed that the armor of the pangolin is bulletproof.

Scientists suggest that the pangolin scales may prove to be the key to developing self-healing bulletproof vests. This is because the scales can pop dents by themselves.

It usually takes 3-5 minutes for the scales to recover. Also, water aids in the process.

Unfortunately, the pangolin is a heavily hunted and poached species. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the population of pangolins in the world is rapidly decreasing. The eight species of this incredible animal from Asia and Africa, are classified in the range of Vulnerable to Critically Endangered.

What is animal armor made from?

Now, an interesting question arises. What is the material that makes up the armor on the body of these creatures? Did you know that humans and pangolins have a common physical feature?

The scales covering the body of the pangolin are made of a protein, keratin. Keratin is found in hair, toenails, and fingernails in a human.

This protein is also found in the claws of the tetrapods. Chelonians have tough shells that are made up of around 60 bones covered in plates. These plates called scutes are tough bony plates that are meant for protection.

A chelonian is permanently attached to its bony scutes and shells. Whenever a chelonian feels threatened by predators, it hides its head and other parts inside these bony shells.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for pangolin is unique: armored animal facts for kids!

Then why not take a look at know the difference: are truffles mushrooms? What's so unique about them? Or curious kids facts to know, how is cement made facts pages?

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Written by Joan Agie

Bachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

Joan Agie picture

Joan AgieBachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.

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