Animals With Scales - A Full List
Did you know that animals with scales, hair and/or feathers have evolved in such a way that these features aid in protecting them and helping them maneuver among their environment? Animals with scales, for example, use this characteristic feature to help them move comfortably and safely as well as protect loss moisture in the body.
For more about all animals with scales, keep reading here at AnimalWised. Not only will we list animal with scales examples with pictures, but we’ve also added some fun facts for each! Keep reading and discover our complete list of scaled animals.
What are scales?
So, what exactly is a scale and why do some animals have scales? A scale is a rigid plate that grows on an animal’s skin and fulfills different functions, which will vary depending on the animal to which they belong.
Scales constitute different organic and inorganic compounds and tissues, such as dentin, vitrodentin, cosmina, ganoin, calcium salts, collagen, keratin, among others. The shapes they adopt vary, from circular, similar to diamonds or spatulas to serrated, small and large, etc.
Fish, reptiles, arthropods, birds and mammals can all present scales. For more about what are some examples of animals that have scales, keep reading below.
Animals with scales
Depending on the species to which they belong, the characteristics of the animal’s scales will vary:
Fish have dermal scales, formed in the mesoderm, one of the cell layers that make up the embryos. Fish scales function to resist strong water currents and serve as protection. Fish scales cover the entire body and are flexible rather than hard, allowing them to move with more ease.
Reptiles with scales
You may be wondering, ‘‘Do reptiles have scales?’’ And the answer is yes, they do. Reptiles have epidermal scales which cover their entire body. Reptile scales are more rigid than those of fish, as they also have bony scales below the epidermis, known as osteoderms. Thanks to this characteristic, a reptiles skin is more hard and resistant.
Birds with scales
Although this may come as a surprise to you, but birds also have scales, they just don’t cover the entire body. A bird’s main characteristics is its feathers, which cover the entire body but the legs. A bird’s legs are covered by keratine-formed scales. Depending on the species, these scales can be found on the fingers and tarsals, or they can extend to the ankle joint, whereby the whole leg is covered with scales.
Mammals with scales
There are few species of mammals that have scales, but those that do have them carry terrestrial scales. Among the mammals that have scales, the most known are pangolins (genus Manis), which are covered by large, hard scales. In addition, musky rat-kangaroos (Hypsiprymnodon moschatus) and scaly-tailed squirrels (family Anomaluridae) have scales on their tails.
Arthropods with scales
Although to the naked eye it may seem imperceptible, arthropods of the order Lepidoptera (such as butterflies and moths) have small scales covering their wings. These scales give their wings the color that they have, isolating them from the cold and regulating them from effects of the sun.
Lastly, you may be wondering, ‘‘Do amphibians have scales?’’ The answer is no, the main characteristic of amphibian skin is its viscous texture.
Examples of animals with scales
Below we show you our complete list of 10 animals with scales pictures:
1. Great white shark
The great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is first on our list of animals with scales and fins. The great white shark is one of the most popular shark species in the world, thanks in part to the famous movie ‘Jaws.’ This shark is characterized by its large size and powerful jaw which contain two rows of serrated and sharp teeth. The Great White Shark has hard and shark scales known as dermal denticles, which serve as excellent protection against its harsh environment. Its fins are located on the side of its body and it’s distinguishable fin protrudes off of its back.
Fun fact: great white sharks are on the top of the food chain, and if they fall prey to something or someone, it’s most likely to humans.
Pangolins are one of several species that belong to the order of folidotos (Pholidota). These desert animals with scales can be found in Africa and Asia. Pangolins are insectivorous animals that feed on ants and terminates, which they trap with their sticky tongues, just like anteaters.
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, especially when they feel threatened and roll their entire bodies into a ball.
Fun fact: pangolins can release a noxious-smelling acid to scare away predators.
For more about insectivores, we recommend reading our article where we list all animals that eat insects.
Snakes belong to the group ophidia. They are characterized by an elongated body without legs, forked tongue, flattened head (in most species) and large eyes. There are almost 3500 species of snakes distributed around the world, except for the Arctic and Antarctic.
Snakes are completely covered by scales, which can differ in coloration depending on their environment. They use this scale coloration as a way of camouflaging themselves from threats. Additionally, these hard scales help them move on the hard ground.
Fun fact: snakes smell with their tongues.
For more about these fascinating animals, we recommend reading our article where we list the 10 largest snakes in the world.
Butterflies belong to the order Lepidoptera and are incredibly popular for their multiplicity of wing color combinations. What very few people know is that these delicate wings are formed by small and thin plates. For this reasons, butterflies are included in the list of animals with scales and wings.
Each scale measures one thousandth of a millimeter and all take on various functions, which may include: providing a characteristic coloration by reflecting light, regulating temperature, serving as a mating element and/or camouflage from predators.
Fun fact: butterflies carry taste receptors on their feet.
For more, we recommend reading our article where we discuss fascinating facts about butterflies.
Crocodiles (Crocodylidae) are among the most common reptiles with scales and inhabit rivers in part of America, Asia, Africa and Australia.
Crocodile skin is covered with hard and rough scales, which help them accumulate heat during the day. When the temperature drops at night, crocodiles enter their aquatic environment and take advantage of this stored heat.
Fun fact: these land animals with scales don’t have sweat glands and release heat through their mouths.
For more about the ancient creatures, we recommend reading our article where we discuss the difference between alligators and crocodiles.
Under the name woodpecker you can find several bird species order Piciformes. These birds can be found all over the world, known for their characteristic beak, which they use to drill holes into wood to feed. Like other birds, a Woodpecker’s legs are covered in overlapping scales.
Fun fact: they have long sticky tongues which they use to extract food from tree trunks.
For more, we suggest taking a look at our article where we discuss why do woodpeckers peck wood?
Iguanas belongs to the genus reptiles and the Iguanidae family. Iguanas are on of the most popular animals with scales in the world and are distributed throughout most of Latin America, including Central America and part of the Caribbean. Iguana skin can present varied coloration, from different shades of green to chestnut and gray.
All iguana species, despite varying in color, have scales. Iguana skin is covered with small hard and rough scales. Additionally, they have scaled ridges and/or humps of different sizes on their backs, commonly known as tubercular scales.
Do you like iguanas? For more, take a look at our article where we discover everything you need to know about iguanas as pets.
8. Steller’s sea eagle
The Steller's sea eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus) is a bird which can be found on lake and river shores in Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan and parts of Russia. This bird of prey is characterized by its black plumage with stripes on the chest, head and back. Its feathers and part of the legs are, however, white in color.
The Steller’s sea eagle has scales on its legs and powerful claws.
Fun fact: Steller’s sea eagles are the largest and heaviest of all sea eagles.
The pineapplefish (Cleidopus gloriamaris) is an incredibly unique fish that lives in the waters surrounding Australia and its insular territories. Pineapple fish scales are large, hard and sharp at the tip, showing strong visual similarities to a pineapple.
Fun fact: pineapple fish are supposedly very bad swimmers.
Last on our list of examples of animals with scales we have the moth, commonly visible at nighttime. Moths are distributed in cities all over the world. Like butterflies, they have tiny scales on their wings which are flexible and fragile. These scales give them their characteristic color and, at the same time, allow them to regulate their body temperature in order to survive.
Fun fact: moths birth between 40 to 1000 eggs in one lifetime.
If you want to read similar articles to Animals With Scales - A Full List, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.
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- Peter R. (2000). "The integumentary morphology of modern birds—An overview". American Zoologist 2000 40(4):461-477.
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- Martin, Samuel. (18 de diciembre de 2007). “Global diversity of crocodiles (Crocodilia, Reptilia) in freshwater”. Hydrobiologia 595(1): 587-591.
- “Steller´s sea-eagle”. The IUCN Red List of Threatenes Species. Consulta: https://www.iucnredlist.org/es/species/22695147/93492859#taxonomy