Probably weighing about 3 tons (2.7 tonnes) when living, this bizarre animal would have stood approximately 15 feet (4.6 m) tall when standing on its hind legs, using its thick tail for balance. It had 5 fingers on each hand with huge claws probably used for defense and for pulling down vegetation from above when foraging for food. One claw core is 17 inches (43 cm) long. The visible portion of the claw would have been 12 inches (30 cm) or more in length! This sloth, a land animal, may have been killed in a flood or died while swimming, as its skeleton was found in marine sediment in association with small marine fossils.
Giant ground sloths are extinct relatives of modern tree sloths. It is interesting to note that a ground sloth fossil is credited with an assist in the beginnings of North American vertebrate paleontology, as it was Thomas Jefferson's letter on Megalonyx, another ground sloth genus, read before the American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia in 1797, that got the ball rolling.
The original bones of this unusual creature were discovered in 1991 in a storm sewer retention basin, and were donated to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (NCMNS) by the city of Wilmington, North Carolina. They went on exhibit at the museum in 2000.
We've been authorized by NCMNS to produce casts of this magnificent skeleton. This animal was truly a giant! Here are some measurements:
Skull Length - 26 inches (66 cm)
Base of the skull to base of the tail, near the pelvis - 140 inches (369 cm)
Tail length - 74 inches (188 cm)
Total length, from nose to tail, about 20 feet (6.2 m). Of course, posed, rearing up (as shown) the actual 'footprint' of the exhibit (floor space required) would be shorter.
Casts of this specimen can be mounted in a variety of poses. This is a definite must to create an Ice Age exhibit with a strong impact. Contact us for more information.