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Scientific name: Megatherium, meaning ‘Giant beast’

Common name: Giant ground sloth

Lived: Grasslands and woodlands of South America

When: 125,000 - 9,000 years ago

The giant ground sloth probably became extinct due to a combination of human hunting and changes in climate at the end of the last Ice Age.

Size: Up to 6 metres tall and weighing 4,000 kg

Diet: Plants and fruits

Statues: Single adult individual standing upright against a tree

Fun fact: The Crystal Palace Megatherium statue once lost its left arm after the tree supporting the model grew too wide and the limb snapped off.

The Crystal Palace statues vs modern scientific reconstructions: Megatherium only became extinct relatively recently so intact skeletons were available to base the reconstructions on, including fossils collected by Charles Darwin during his famous voyage aboard the HMS Beagle.

The giant ground sloth had shaggy, dark brown fur and claws so long it had to walk on the side of its feet. It resembled a giant bear and was the size of an elephant and probably moved very slowly.  It stood on a ‘tripod’ of its two hind legs and its tail to reach leaves high up on trees but also walked on four legs. The Crystal Palace model was restored with a short proboscis (trunk) on its face but this is absent from more recent reconstructions.

© Copyright Mark Witton 2019

This reconstruction has been reproduced by kind permission of the very talented palaeoartist Mark Witton whose work you can read about, support and buy.

Last edited on 16 May 2019

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