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The easiest thing to relate the creature itself to is a mixture of an armadillo and a bear. It's a large animal with essential physiology similar to that of a Spectacled Bear and large plates of interlocking armored shell along its back and partially down its limbs and head. Its skin is a light grey and covered in rough, almost translucent hair.

The environment is the intersection between a large dune-based desert and a type of Hamada desert consisting of broken stone and natural rises/outcroppings. There are natural water sources, both above and underground.

I'm wondering whether it makes sense for such a creature to exist wild in this kind of environment and what kind of behavior it could have as a result.

(Preferably science based but open to options)

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    $\begingroup$ I'd like to point out that desserts generally do not encourage the evolution of large species, but rather small ones that can more easily hide, or generally need less water/food to survive. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Jul 4 '16 at 17:58
  • $\begingroup$ Related, but not a duplicate: Could a creature evolve a biological “bulletproof vest”? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jul 4 '16 at 20:27
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    $\begingroup$ There once were armadillos the size of a VW beetle car known as glyptodonts. So the body plan is Ok. But in a desert is there a large enough density of food sources to sustain it? $\endgroup$ – nigel222 Jul 4 '16 at 22:30
  • $\begingroup$ You immediately made me think of turtles with your title $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Jul 5 '16 at 1:46
  • $\begingroup$ Any species can only survive and thrive if their food source is plentiful, it drops below X and they start dying off. $\endgroup$ – cybernard Jul 5 '16 at 4:21
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I think it's safe to say armadillos aren't the only armored creatures in the desert. Tortoises, carapaced beetles, scaled reptiles. So armadillo bear is reasonable assuming its lacking the fur and fatty insulation that its bear cousins would be known for.

Fair to assume that, like both a bear and an armadillo it would be omnivorous. Can't be picky in the desert. Maybe, being essentially a very large armadillo, I could picture the local insect-life being much larger too. Perhaps they have a favorite foot long grub worm or beetle they feast on? If there are underground water/caves I could see these creatures hibernating much like bears, but perhaps during the summer instead of winter to avoid the very hot instead of very cold. Armadillos are built defensively burrowing and hiding, not to fight. So I'd wonder how you would approach their demeanor. I'd imagine reserved rather than aggressive.

Fun idea.

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  • $\begingroup$ good points. Dry season/summer 'hibernation' is called aestivation. Various desert frogs, lungfish and insects do it. It might be problematic for something bear-sized and mammalian, though. The armadillo bear will need a way to keep its body temperature stable while asleep without sweating or panting all its water away. $\endgroup$ – DrBob Jul 5 '16 at 11:14
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I'd have to say maybe.

Natural armor, from a survival standpoint, is useful to protect from predators. Would there be any creatures preying on this theoretical armadillo-bear?

If so, then yes, it would make sense to develop a naturally hard coating for defense. However, otherwise, it'd be simpler to develop something less weighty, to be able to catch prey faster.

If it was a thin coating to protect from, say, desert storms or what have you, then that would be a decent middle-ground.

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Would something like the Thorny Dragon meet your criteria?

It also has a trick to gather water using it's skin http://www.asknature.org/strategy/3f47ec0d4343c94f82e19e103ac20c34

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Those actually exist. For example, many scorpions live in the desert. They are prettymuch 100% armor-plated. Consider Hadrurus arizonensis (Arizonian Giant Desert Hairy Scorpion):

enter image description here

Hadrurus arizonensis is distributed throughout the Sonora and Mojave deserts.

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