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.
Last edited on 16 May 2019