Megatherium Lived:2 million years ago - 8,000 years ago.Megatherium is known from many skeletons, sets of fossilised footprints and there is dung and hair from related animals. Finds have come from the Americas, as far north as Texas and south as Argentina.

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
Pronunciation: meg-ah-THEER-ee-um
Latin name: Megatherium americanum
Meaning: "giant beast"
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.

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