13 Amazing Animals With Scales (+Pics)

Many animals worldwide have scales on all or some parts of their bodies. Scales are usually made up of organic material such as keratin, dentin, or collagen (amongst others), a protein that makes up human fingernails and hair and that forms the hooves, claws, beaks, and talons in animals.

Scales are plates of many different shapes and sizes, forming an essential part of many animals’ anatomy. These scales form a protective layer over an animal’s body. They can serve various functions like sensory, physical protective, or temperature control. They are a fascinating evolutionary adaptation.

Scales provide these animals with protection from predators and the elements, and they also help to regulate body temperature. However, in some species, scales can also be used as weapons. Here are some of the animals that have scales.


13 Animals With Scales

1. Great White Sharks

The great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is first on our list of animals with scales, one of the largest predators in the world, and, of course, the most famous shark species in the world. Great white sharks are found in oceans everywhere, also known as great whites or white pointers.

Great white sharks are big lamniform sharks with scales covering their entire bodies. These scales are called dermal denticles. The scales on their bodies are tough, especially around their fins and gills, for added protection. They reduce underwater drag, protect them from injuries, and provide excellent protection against their harsh environment

2. Pangolins

Pangolins are one of several scaled animal species belonging to the order Pholidota. These desert animals with scales can be found in Africa and Asia. Pangolins are also called scaly anteaters because of their prominent scales.  

Pangolins and armadillos are the only two known mammal species that have scales. Pangolins are characterized by thick and hard scales which cover almost all of the body except for the snout, legs, and abdomen. These scales are composed of keratin and serve as a form of protection from predators as they are tough to bite through. In addition, scales cover their body so that pangolins roll themselves up in a ball to protect their soft inner side when threatened. 

3. Snakes

Snakes are one of the most common reptiles in the world and belong to the group Ophidia. They are known for their swift movements and venom. All snakes have scales that cover their entire bodies. Usually, the scales of snakes differ in color depending on the species and environment.

These scales protect them from predators and from becoming dehydrated. They also help snakes camouflage themselves and stalk their prey. Additionally, these hard scales help them move on hard ground.

4. Armadillos

Armadillos (Dasypodidae) are the second mammal with their bodies covered in scales. The name “armadillo” originates from Spain and, in translation, means “little armored one.” They are native to North and South America and inhabit different environments.

The bony plates that cover these strange creatures are made of keratine and protect against different predators. In addition, armadillos have tough scales on their backside, which protect them against predators. Their scales are made of keratin and are tough to bite through. 

There are 20 extant armadillo species, but only two can curl into the ball and roll away from the danger. Armadillos are fast diggers and burrow themselves at tremendous speeds. In addition, they are quick runners and swimmers, which helps them survive sudden predator attacks.

5. Butterflies

Butterflies belong to the order Lepidoptera and are incredibly popular for their beauty and various color combinations of the wing. However, the most amazing part is the small and thin plates form these delicate wings that include butterflies in the list of animals with scales on their wings.

Butterflies have scales all over their bodies, including their wings. The scales are tiny and made from small microscopic hairs, unlike the scales on most other animals, which are made of keratin

Each scale measures one-thousandth of a millimeter. All perform various functions, including providing a characteristic coloration by reflecting light, regulating temperature, serving as a mating element, and, most important, camouflaging from predators.

6. Crocodiles

Crocodiles (Crocodylidae) are among the most common reptiles with scales and inhabit rivers in parts of America, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Undoubtedly, these are some of the most fearsome and fascinating scaled animals.

Crocodiles are covered with hard and rough scales from head to paws. Their upper bodies are covered with large and rigid scales, while their lower bodies are covered with small ones.

Being cold-blooded, crocodiles can’t adjust their body temperature. However, their scales allow them to absorb the heat from the sun during the day, which warms them up. As a result, crocodiles enter their aquatic environment when the temperature drops at night and take advantage of this stored heat.

7. Iguana

Iguanas reptiles belong to the Iguanidae family. Iguanas are one of the most common animals with scales in the world and are distributed throughout most of Latin America, including Central America and part of the Caribbean. 

Iguana’s skin is covered with small hard, and rough scales. Additionally, they have scaled ridges and humps of different sizes on their backs, commonly known as tubercular scales. 

Iguanas have a row of elongated scales from their necks to their tails. To be more precise, they have large tuberculate scales around their necks, large, thick, and dense scales on the dorsal side of their bodies, and large, round scales on their cheeks called Subtympanic shields. Iguana scales reflect its body color.

Depending on their habitat, they are found in brown, green, and gray colors. These colors help them camouflage and hide from predators easily in their environments.

8. Alligators

Like crocodiles, alligators are also giant reptiles endemic to the United States and China. However, they have large scales on their bodies made up of keratin. The scales on their undersides are smoother and more similar to a snake’s, while the scales on their backs are hard bony plates called scutes. Scutes protect alligators from injuries and help prevent dehydration via water loss. 

You may hear Alligators are bulletproof but are tough enough to stop a 9mm bullet, as well as a .45 caliber and even higher caliber bullets. This presumption is borne from alligators having hard and distinctive skin.

9. Moths

Moths belong to the order Lepidoptera. There are more than 160,000 known species of moths. Commonly visible at nighttime, moths are distributed in cities across the globe. Like butterflies, they have tiny scales on their wings, which are flexible and fragile. In addition, they all have scales on their bodies covering their wings.

These scales give them their characteristic color and, at the same time, allow them to regulate their body temperature to survive. Scales also add color to the moth’s wings helping it attract mates. Moreover, moths use their scales to fly smoothly in the air. Their scales occasionally fall in flight, but this does not affect their flying abilities. 

10. Turtles

Turtles are reptiles known for their tough shells that cover their backs and stomachs. Turtle shells are made up of bone, with the upper part of the shell covered with keratin scales. These scales protect turtle shells from predators and make their skin more attack-resistant.

Turtles are very similar to crocodiles having two layers to their scales, the osteoderm and the epidermal layers. However, a turtle’s scales are usually smoother and less intimidating and form a hard shell around its body.

Although a turtle has scales across its entire body, the shell is its most unique, defining, and protective feature. Unlike dermal fish scales, turtle scales cannot be scraped off. They are tough and do not break off easily, giving turtles an extra layer of security and protection.

11. Gila Monsters

Gila monsters are medium-sized lizards native to North America. They are venomous but move slowly, posing no significant threat to humans. However, they are classified by the IUCN as “near threatened” due to habitat loss.

Gila monsters have thick bodies covered with colorful scales that are rounded pebblelike, and don’t overlap. The scales–especially those on the Gila Monster’s head–are supported beneath the skin by bony elements called osteoderms. The patterned scales provide Gila monsters protection and camouflage from predators. 

12. Chameleons

Chameleons are small lizards known for their color-changing abilities. More than 180 species of chameleons are found in several parts of the world, including sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Southern Europe, and the Middle East.

Chameleons have scales all over their bodies. These scales have small chromatophore cells under them, which reflect light at different wavelengths. It allows chameleons to change their skin color at will and protect them from predators.

13. Horned Lizards

Texas horned lizards are small reptiles native to North America. They are known for their spiked scales and horns over their heads. The spines on the lizard’s back and sides are modified reptile scales, preventing water loss through the skin, whereas the horns on the head are actual. 

Texas horned lizards use their scales and horns to fend off predators. Not just that, their coloration generally serves as camouflage. The scales also make it difficult to bite these lizards.

Disclaimer: This blog should not be considered as being professional pet medical advice. The content published on this blog is for informational purposes only. Please always consult with a licensed and local veterinarian for medical advice.

About Shaun Clarke

Shaun is passionate about pets and animals, especially dogs, cats, and rabbits. He owns a dog and a couple of cats too. He loves visiting wildlife sanctuaries and shares a strong bond with animals. When he is not writing, he loves to do a barbecue in the backyard with his family and friends.