Shasta ground sloths in woodland

Giant ground sloths

Although related to modern tree sloths, giant ground sloths resembled no other animal: they lived on the ground, rivalled the mammoths in size and were some of the strangest mammals ever. Their remarkable claws were up to 50cm long, the size of a man’s forearm. Massive hind quarters gave way to much slimmer shoulders and a tiny head. Originally from South America - fossils have been found in Argentina - giant ground sloths spread north to the southern part of North America. Slight differences in fossils from South America suggest that males and females may have differed in size and/or appearance, which hints at a gender-based social structure.

Scientific name: Megatheriidae

Rank: Family

Common names:

great beast

Behaviours

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Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

When they lived

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What their world was like

Ice age Ice age
The last ice age hasn't ended, the climate has just warmed up a bit causing the ice sheets to retreat. When the ice was more extensive, our climate was very different.

Fossil types

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Trace fossils Trace fossils
It's not only the actual bodily remains of dead animals and plants that can become fossils. Things created or left behind by animals can also fossilise, such as their footprints, burrows and dung.