Doedicurus was first described by Richard Owen in 1847 based on part of a tail. Owen originally gave it the name Glyptodon clavicaudatus, the species name meaning ‘club-tailed’. However, nearly three decades later in 1874, Burmeister reclassified the species and gave it a new genus, Doedicurus. This name means ‘pestle tail’ and refers to the similarity of the shape of the tail to the grinding tool of a pestle and mortar.
Doedicurus was the largest of a diverse array of large glyptodonts - extinct relatives of modern armadillos. Remains of Doedicurus have been found in Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. It lived relatively recently during the Pleistocene, beginning around 1.8 million years ago, and went extinct just 11 thousand years ago. This means that the first human settlers to South America probably encountered Doedicurus and maybe even hunted it for meat.
Glyptodonts such as Doedicurus used their powerful claws to dig up their vegetarian diet of roots, tubers, and tough grasses. They chewed this up with deep jaws of strong grinding teeth. Their striking armor plates may have protected them from predators during the Pleistocene, but not from the catastrophic climate changes that contributed to their extinction 11,000 years ago.