Animals With Scales - Full List
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. For example, animals with scales use this characteristic feature to help them move comfortably and safely as well as protect moisture loss in the body.
For more about all different types of animals with scales, keep reading AnimalWised. Not only will we list examples of animals with scales, we provide fun facts about each of them and show you photos of what they look like. 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 are made from different organic and inorganic compounds and tissues, such as dentin, vitrodentin, cosmina, ganoin, calcium salts, collagen, keratin and others. The shapes they adopt vary acording the different types of scaled animals. They can be circular, similar to diamonds, serrated, small, large, etc.
Fish, reptiles, arthropods, birds and even 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 with scales
The majority of 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. However, not all fish have scales. For example, clingfishes from the family Gobiesocidae do not.
Reptiles with scales
You have seen the skin of reptiles and wondered if they had scales or if they simply have rough skin. All 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 reptile's skin is more hard and resistant. All reptiles are scaled animals.
Birds with scales
This may come as a surprise to you, but birds are also scaled animals. It is just that thier scales don’t cover the entire body. A bird’s main characteristics is its feathers, which cover the entire body but the legs and beak. 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 and those that do have 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 contains two rows of serrated and sharp teeth. The Great White Shark has hard 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 of scaled animals that belong to the order 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. You can see a photo of these mammals with scales below.
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 variety of wing color combinations. What very few people know is that these delicate wings are formed by small and thin plates. For this reason, butterflies are included in the list of animals with scales on their 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. These are some of the most fearsome and fascinating scaled animals.
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 reptiles which belong to the Iguanidae family. Iguanas are on 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 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. See a photo of this beautiful scaly fish below.
Fun fact: pineapple fish are supposedly relatively 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 - Full List, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.
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- “Steller´s sea-eagle”. The IUCN Red List of Threatenes Species. Retrieved from: https://www.iucnredlist.org/es/species/22695147/93492859#taxonomy