- Type: Giant Ground Sloth
- Diet: Herbivore Browsed vegetation possibly scavenged meat
- Size: Up to 6 metres long, weighing around 3.8 tonnes
- Protection status: Extinct
|Latin name:||Megatherium americanum|
|Animal Type:||Mammal - edentate|
|Dietary Type:||Herbivorous - Browsed vegetation possibly scavenged meat|
|Closest Living Relative:||Tree Sloths|
|Size:||Up to 6 metres long, weighing around 3.8 tonnes|
Unlike its living relatives, the tree sloths, Megatherium must have been one of the most impressive animals to walk the Earth. Weighing almost as much as an elephant, it had huge claws on its feet. These claws meant that it could not put its feet flat on the ground and so, like a modern anteater, it had to walk on the sides of its feet. Amazingly, its footprints show that it walked mainly on just its hind legs.
A few thousand years ago the Americas were the land of giant ground sloths. They were a bit more impressive than their tree-dwelling cousins, but would probably have been equally odd-looking. Megatherium was a huge sloth, almost 6m long, and because it became extinct so recently, mummified skin and dung has been discovered in dry caves in North America helping to reconstruct exactly what it looked like and how it behaved.
The biggest surprise has come from the fossilised trackways of Megatherium. These have revealed the amazing fact that these giants regularly walked upright on their hind legs. The giant sloths must have weighed almost four tonnes (nearly as much as an African elephant), and so walking on only two legs would have put a tremendous strain on their skeletons.