Ground Sloth Facts
Ground Sloths are extinct large prehistoric mammals who unlike the modern day Tree Sloths were terrestrial (mainly stayed on the ground). The term "Ground Sloth" does
not refer to one particular species but rather several species all of which are now extinct. On this page of Extinct Prehistoric Animal Facts you will find information
about these interesting mammals which no longer roam the earth.
Interesting Ground Sloth Facts
- 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.
- The Ground Sloth Megatherium americanum was one of the largest mammals to ever walk the earth. It weighed up to 8,818 pounds (4,000 kilograms) and stood a towering
20 feet (6 meters) tall. It was the largest land mammal of its time except for a few species of mammoths.
- These animals were very strange looking. They had large hind quarters, a tiny head, narrow shoulders, large back legs, small slender front legs, and a heavy tail.
They had hair covering their body.
- Ground sloths originated in South America about 35 million years ago. Approximately 8 million years ago they began to migrate to North America. Their fossils have
been found throughout the United States, Mexico, and even as far north as Canada.
- Several fossilized remains of these sloths have been discovered in the La Brea Tar Pits in California.
- In 1797 the great American founding father and president Thomas Jefferson discovered bones of a Giant Ground Sloth (Megalonyx) in a cave in West Virginia. A
species of this animal is named after him; Megalonyx jeffersoni.
- By examining this ancient mammals teeth, skull shape, and fossilized dung most scientist believe this extinct prehistoric animals diet consisted mostly of plants
and grass. There is some evidence that it also would eat small amounts of meat.
- These extinct animals had claws that measured up to an incredible 19.7 inches (50 centimeters) long.
- Numerous remains of these animals have been found in caves. Scientists think it is likely they used the caves for protection, warmth during cold periods, and to
stay cool when it was hot outside.
- There were many dangerous predators that could have posed a threat to the Ground Sloths; especially the younger members of the species. These animals include the
giant cat Smilodon and Dire wolves. The Ground Sloths sharp claws would have helped protect it against these predators.
Facts about Ground Sloth Extinction
- At the end of the last ice age numerous huge mammals, including the Ground Sloth, died out suddenly; these so called Megafaunal Extinctions are believed by many
scientist to have been caused by climate change. Although it is also believed human hunting was a major factor.
- Ground sloths became extinct in North America and South America approximately 10,000 years ago during the Megafaunal Extinctions.
- These amazing animals survived on some Caribbean Islands, including Cuba, up to 5,000 years ago. This is long after their extinction in North and South America and
correlates to the time when humans first started to inhabit these islands.