Required fields are marked *. According to the Illinois State Museum, numerous fossils of different species of the Megatherium have been unearthed from at least 150 different sites across North America. Experts argue that their wide, flattened claws look like ideal tools for excavating roots and tubers [PDF]. While they were more than capable of standing up on two legs (more about this later), the animals preferred to get around on fourâbut individual species differed widely from each other in terms of limb posture. Because of the shapes of their ankle and/or hind claws, sloths from the megatheriid, mylodontid, and nothrotheriid families had to trudge along by putting weight on the outer sides of their feet. Pleistocene Era or the Great Ice Age ( 1.8 mya), Largest specimens grew to about 20 feet in length, 12 feet (when reared up on the hind legs), Skeletal remains have been found from Alaska, Canada’s Northwest Territories, New Mexico, northern Mexico, Arizona, and California, and in the Midwest regions, like in Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Minnesota, and Tennessee, most fossils of the animals belonging to the genus have been found from inside ancient caves, Preferred forests along rivers, lakes, and other water bodies, Footprints suggest they were primarily quadruped, but were capable of assuming a bipedal stance (like a bear). However, humans were contemporary to these creatures and are thought to be their primary enemies and predators, responsible for their extinction about 10,000 years ago by hunting them down for food. Then, in either 1927 or 1928 (sources differ), a group of explorers happened upon the incredibly well preservedÂ body. Some were cow-like grazers; others might have been accomplished burrowers; and, believe it or not, a few even dined beneath the ocean waves. Still, Jefferson spoke at length about the big-clawed mystery animal at a 1797 meeting of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. The Ground Sloth is a huge Extinct animal of the sloth family. Today, the six living species of sloths are usually found dangling from tree branches, or going viral on YouTube. Where the non avian dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago, Megatherium (giant ground sloths) were a large species that existed in the Americas in the Pliocene/Pleistocene. And some marks show that they were filleting the meat off the bone.âÂ. Scientists have divided ground sloths up into four recognized families, and only oneâthe megalonychidsâstood flat on their rear feet like humans do. Whenever a ground sloth did this, its muscular tail would act like another leg, helping to support its considerable body weight. Still, we know more about it than any other ground sloth thanks to one amazing find. Consider the times when the giant ground sloths disappeared. Eleven thousand years ago, a New Mexican Nothrotheriops stumbled into a volcanic gas vent and died. Article was last reviewed on 16th September 2019. They were one of the great success stories of the Ice Age – with 19 genera ranging through South, … However, interestingly, they were the ancestors of the modern-day sloths only, that weigh less than 20 pounds. It had large claws both for defense and, as also to pull down branches of trees. Unlike modern sloths, they didn't live in the trees, and they lived only on the ground. Megatherium is an extinct genus of ground sloths endemic to South America that lived from the Early Pliocene through the end of the Pleistocene. The distribution of these creatures varies based on the species at hand, and the time period. Above the equator, its slightly-smaller cousin, the 6000-pound Eremotherium, managed to spread as far north as New Jersey. However, the mylodontids may have also gathered food by digging for it. The iconic Megatherium , also appropriately known as the giant ground sloth, even grew as large as today’s elephants. The Ground Sloth Megatherium americanum was one of the largest mammals to ever walk the earth. Fresh skin, dung and footprints were discovered in a cave in the Patagonian region of Argentina in 1895. This trait isnât all that unusual. Currently, four different species of Megalonyx are recognized; the most famous, Megalonyx jeffersonii, was named in Jefferson's honor. Ground sloths are a diverse group of extinct sloths, in the mammalian superorder Xenarthra. Over 100 species of giant ground sloths lived throughout North, Central and South America, ranging in size from the formidable Megatherium americanum which towered 3.5 metres tall (12 feet), and weighed up to 4 tons, to the considerably smaller 90-kg (200-lb) Cuban Megalocnus. The Giant Sloth . A perfect example of this long-gone South American fauna is a ground-dwelling sloth that was the same size as an elephant. The Sage of Monticelloâs importance to American paleontology cannot be understated. now North and South America. However, they were naturally peace-loving creatures that would only show aggression when it came to defense. Not only were almost all of its ligaments and bones intact, but this Nothrotheriops also came with a few muscle fibers. Â, As archaeologist Haskel Greenfield points out, weâll likely never know if early Americans killed this animal or merely scavenged its remains. Wow, what an evolution! They were slow-moving animals, and the diet of these creatures varied according to climatic changes, while the dung samples also showed which plants these animals preferred, like, during the summer months, they would consume desert plants, while in the winter or wet months they would prefer young leaves from trees. Ground Sloths ranged in size from the massive Megatherium americanum, who was the size of a modern day elephant, to much smaller species that were about the size of a dog. Among his findings, there were four individual species of giant ground sloths, along with a gomphothere and an ancient horse. The extinct ground sloths pursued all sorts of different lifestyles and came in just about every imaginable shape and size. Various other smaller species belonging to the subgenus Pseudomegatherium are known from the Andes. They were clumsy, slow-moving animals with a low narro… Fossils are known from many Pleistocene sites in the United States, including most of the states east of the Rocky Mountains as well as along the west coast. Giant ground sloths evolved in South America around 35 million years ago, and migrated into North America, starting around 8 million years ago, with the last species arriving here during the Pleistocene. Megatherium is part of the sloth family Megatheriidae, which also includes t… The cherry on top was an accompanying dung ball, which helped confirm that Nothrotheriops ate a diverse array of plantsâincluding cacti fruit, yuccas, and saltbushes.Â. Several huge, prehistoric tunnels have been found in Argentina [PDF]. Rivaling a black bear in size, Nothrotheriops would have been dwarfed by behemoths like Megatherium. Their most recent survivors lived in the Caribbean Antilles, where they may have survived until about 2819 and 2660 BC.This was the last known occurrence of Megalocnus in Cuba. Youâve just pictured a member of the Thalassocnus genus. The giant ground sloth was a herbivorous animal that fed mainly on plants that grew on the ground. They originated in the Oligocene about 35 million years ago and lived on the American continents, reaching a weight of several tons and a height of about 4 metres (13 feet). All ground sloths were predominantly … The genus had eight species and one type species: Unlike the six small, modern tree sloth species, these gigantic beasts dwelled on land and had physical characteristics to suit their ground-dwelling lifestyle. The Giant Ground Sloths were a group of several different species of sloths, characterized by a large shapes and sizes. The 13,000-year old fossil is riddled with 41 unusual cuts that appear to have been left by manmade tools. 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