Spiny mice have armadillo-like armor in their tails

Wednesday, May 24, 2023 - 10:12 in Paleontology & Archaeology

The spiny mouse is an unassuming rodent, but it’s armed with a very special tail. CT scans show the tail is sheathed in a secret blanket of bony plates. Before the scans, only one other group of modern mammals was known to wield this kind of armor: armadillos. The discovery, reported May 24 in iScience, may mean that the skin bones are more widespread in mammals than previously thought and could shed light on their evolution.  The rodent’s secret was revealed when evolutionary biologist Edward Stanley of the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville put a museum specimen of a spiny mouse (Acomys spp.) in an X-ray machine as part of a multi-institutional project to develop 3-D digital models of all vertebrate life. It was a “nondescript looking” mouse with slightly spiky fur, Stanley says. But in the initial X-ray, its tail looked unusual. “It looked kind of dark and weird,” he...

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