Giant sloths hunted to extinction

Anna-Lisse Lenard, Reporter

When a sloth is mentioned, many think of the cute, small, lazy creatures that are seen today. However, over 35 million years ago, sloths were entirely different and even a bit terrifying.

Giant ground sloths – properly known as megatheriums – were prodigious creatures that lived in grassy, and warm habitats mainly in South America and some parts of North America. Their herbivore diet consisted of plants, bark, and fruit. The creatures were, on average, 20 feet long and 13 feet tall on four legs, and 20 feet tall on two. They had long, dark hair, talon-like claws, and were over 8,000 pounds. The average ground sloth was about the size of an elephant with bear-like characteristics.

The researching of giant sloths has picked up. Footprints of the creature were recently found in New Mexico by paleontologists, along with ancient human footprints inside of them. It showed that although the sloths were massive, humans still hunted them, specifically Alaskan travelers.

The footprints provided key support to a theory for their mysterious extinction. Before, scientists believed that the sloths died out from climate change, failure to adapt/migrate, or disease. However, with newfound proof humans interacted with these creatures, the new proposition is that the giants were killed off by Alaskan tribes who migrated into their habitats.

New technology helped paleontologists discover the prints with the help of the lack of human disturbance to the site. With a bigger team, innovations, and more interest in the investigation, more research will be conducted about giant sloths and other lesser-known animals, and their mysterious disappearances.


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