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Animals With Scales: 17 Animals That Have Scales

Reptiles, fishes, and birds have scales that protect their skins from predators, help control body temperature, and even allow better mobility.

Scales are tiny bone-like plates that protect an animal’s skin. They are part of the exocrine system of an animal and are generally found throughout the body except in the case of birds.

Snakes are the most popular animals known for having scales. Several other animals have scales, such as fishes, amphibians, and other reptiles.

This article lists the top 17 animals with scales on their bodies:

  • Great white shark
  • Pangolin
  • Snake
  • Armadillo
  • Parrot
  • Butterfly
  • Crocodile
  • Alligator
  • Moth
  • Steller’s Sea Eagle
  • Lizard
  • Goldfish
  • Carp
  • Gila monster
  • Chameleon
  • Turtle
  • Iguana

1. Great White Sharks

Great White Shark

One of the largest predators in the world, great white sharks are found in oceans everywhere. They are also known as the great whites or white pointers.

Great white sharks are big lamniform sharks that have scales covering their entire bodies. These scales are called dermal denticles. They reduce drag underwater and protect them from injuries.[1]

The scales on their bodies are tough, especially around their fins and gills for added protection. They also have bulky bodies with elongated snouts and large heads.

2. Pangolins


Pangolins are also called scaly anteaters because of their prominent scales. They are found in several parts of the world and are known for their short legs and large claws.

Pangolins and armadillos are the only two known mammal species that have scales. The scales of pangolins cover their entire back and outer legs. Their face, underbelly, and throat are not covered with scales but have hair.

The scales protect them from predators as they are tough to bite through. 

When threatened, pangolins roll themselves up in a ball to protect their soft inner side. They also release a foul-smelling acid that fends off predators.

3. Snakes

Corn Snake

Snakes are one of the most common reptiles in the world. They are known for their swift movements and venom. All snakes have scales that cover their entire bodies.

Snakes have long slender bodies, large eyes, and flat heads. Their scales protect them from predators and from becoming dehydrated. [2]

The scales of snakes differ in color depending on the species and environment. They also help snakes camouflage themselves and stalk their prey

4. Armadillos

Giant Armadillos

Armadillos is the second mammal with scales. They are native to North and South America and inhabit different environments.

Armadillos have tough scales on their backside, which protect them against predators. Their scales are made of keratin and are tough to bite through. 

While there are some species of armadillos that roll into a ball, most of the subspecies don’t practice this defense mechanism.

Armadillos are fast diggers and burrow themselves at massive speeds. They are quick runners and swimmers, which helps them survive predator attacks.

5. Parrots

Amazon Parrot

Parrots are birds found in tropical and sub-tropical regions around the world. They are famous for their colorful feathers and the ability to mimic words. 

Some parrots cannot imitate human sounds, but most can. 

Their beaks are curved, which helps them eat fruits and feed them to their young.

Unlike the rest of their bodies (which are covered in feathers), parrot feet are covered with scales. These scales overlap each other and protect their inner skin. They also protect parrots from dehydration.

6. Butterflies

Monarch Butterfly

Butterflies are small colorful insects found in almost every part of the world. They are part of the Lepidoptera order along with moths and undergo complete metamorphosis to develop.[3]

Butterflies have scales all over their bodies, including their wings. The scales are extremely small and made from small hairs, unlike the scales on most other animals, which are made of keratin. You need a microscope to see these hairs.

Butterfly scales are also responsible for the wonderous colors of their wings.

7. Crocodiles


Crocodiles are some of the largest reptiles in the world. They are semiaquatic and are found in tropical regions across the globe. They are carnivorous and feed on whatever prey they can find.

Crocodiles are covered with tough 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. Their scales allow them to absorb the heat from the sun during the day, which warms them up.

8. Alligators

American Alligator

Much like crocodiles, alligators are also large reptiles endemic to the United States and China. They have large scales on their bodies made up of keratin. These scales are called scutes.

Scutes protect alligators from injuries and help prevent dehydration via water loss. Alligators are opportunistic feeders and eat whatever meat comes their way.

9. Moths


Moths belong to the order Lepidoptera and are found in every part of the world. There are more than 160,000 known species of moths. All of them have scales on their bodies that cover their wings.

Moths use their scales to fly smoothly in the air. Their scales occasionally fall in flight, but this does not affect their flying abilities. 

Scales also add color to the moth’s wings helping it attract mates.

10. Steller’s Sea Eagles

Steller’s Sea Eagles

Steller’s sea eagles, also known as Pacific sea eagles, are large birds belonging to the family Accipitridae. They are among the heaviest eagles in the world, weighing around 11 to 20 lbs.

Steller’s sea eagles are native to Northeast Asia, especially China, Japan, Korea, Russia, and Taiwan. They prey on small birds and fishes.

Much like other birds of prey, Steller’s Sea eagles have scales on their legs and claws. These scales are tough and protect eagles from getting injured. They also provide a firmer grip when catching fish.

11. Texas Horned Lizards

Horned Lizards

Texas horned lizards are small reptiles native to North America. They are known for their spiked scales and horns over their heads. Females grow larger than males at around five inches in length.

Texas horned lizards use their scales and horns to fend off predators. The scales also make it difficult to bite these lizards. 

They can also fire blood streams from the corner of their eyes. This blood is mixed with a chemical that creates a foul taste for canines such as wolves, dogs, and coyotes, shooing them away.

12. Goldfishes


Goldfishes are small freshwater fishes native to East Asia. They are one of the most famous aquarium fishes in the world and are known for their striking orange-yellow colors.

Goldfishes occur in nature in several shapes and sizes. Some goldfishes are as small as a few inches, while others can grow up to around 16 inches in length. 

They have scales all over their bodies which help them protect themselves from injuries. Scales also help goldfish move efficiently in water as the smooth surface offers less drag.

13. Common Carps

Common Carps

Common carps or Eurasian carps are medium-sized fishes found in freshwaters. They are often considered an invasive species but are classified as vulnerable by the IUCN.

Common carps have long bodies and barrels. They can grow up to around 16 to 31 inches in length and weigh around 40 lbs. 

They have green or brown colored scales on their bodies. Their scales provide them protection from predators and allow them to move swiftly underwater.

14. Gila Monsters

Gila Monsters

Gila monsters are medium-sized lizards native to North America. They are venomous but move slowly, posing no significant threat to humans.

Gila monsters have thick bodies covered with colorful scales. They can grow up to two feet long and weigh more than four lbs.

The patterned scales provide Gila monsters protection and camouflage from predators. They are classified by the IUCN as near threatened due to habitat loss.

15. Chameleons

Labord’s Chameleons

Chameleons are small lizards known for their color-changing abilities. There are more than 180 species of chameleons found in the world. They 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.[4] 

This allows chameleons to change their skin color at will.

16. Turtles

Sea Turtle Flippers

Turtles are reptiles known for their tough shells that cover their backs and stomachs. They are found in almost every part of the world.

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 resistant to attacks.

Unlike dermal fish scales, turtle scales cannot be scraped off. They are tough and do not break off, giving turtles an added layer of security.

17. Iguanas

Marine Iguana

Iguanas are a type of herbivorous reptile native to North and South America. They are large and can grow up to more than 5.5 feet in length.

Iguanas have a row of elongated scales from their necks to their tails. They have various types of scales on their bodies:

  • Large tuberculate scales around their necks
  • Large, thick, and dense scales on the dorsal side of their bodies
  • Large, round scales on their cheeks called Subtympanic shield

Iguana scales reflect its body color. They are found in brown, green, and gray colors, depending on their habitat. These colors help them camouflage and hide from predators easily in their environments.


There are several animals in the world that have scales on all or some parts of their bodies. Scales are usually made up of keratin which is a type of protein that forms the hooves, claws, beaks, and talons.

Reptiles are known for their scales which cover their bodies completely. Snakes, crocodiles, and alligators are some of the most common animals with scales.

There are only two known species of mammals that have scales – pangolin and armadillo. Both animals have tough scales on their backs to protect themselves against predators.

Scales protect the body from tears, cuts, and dehydration which is why they are an important physical aspect in several animals.


What Are Some Desert Animals With Scales?

Sandgrouse, black mamba, desert horn viper, pit viper, lizards, pangolin, and armadillo are some examples of animals with scales that live in deserts.

Do Birds Have Scales?

Yes, birds have scales on their legs and claws. They are made of keratin, much like their beaks. The scales help birds prevent dehydration and provide extra protection to their delicate inner skin. 

About Misfit Animals Staff

The Misfit Animals staff consists of animal lovers, pet enthusiasts, veterinarians, zoologists, and other animal experts. Our goal is to provide people with information on proper animal care.

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