Prehistoric Creature Feature 1
Updated: Dec 11, 2020
Homo sapiens (modern-day humans) have only been on this planet for 130,000-200,000 years. When looking at the whole history of Earth this is less than 1 percent of our 4.6 billion year history, When you sit down and think about that, it is pretty incredible to realize there were so many other inhibitor's of this Earth long before us. So what were these creatures, what did they look like, act like, and why are they gone? These are the questions paleontologists work to answer. If we study the past we can prepare for the future.
One of the most interesting facets of being a paleontologist is studying these animals that no human has ever seen alive(excluding some Ice Age fauna). I especially enjoy learning about the bizarre creatures that are not well known because they have not been featured in pop cultures such as certain dinosaurs and some Ice Age megafauna.
I have decided to dedicate a monthly blog highlighting a prehistoric creature that is often left out of the spotlight.
August 2020: Paramylodon
Sloths, have gained major mainstream attention in recent years, and are on everything from shirts, cups, to backpacks. However, the slow, hanging sloths that we love today were very different thousands - millions of years ago.
Artistic rendention of Paramylodon harlani. Source: http://carnivoraforum.com/topic/9607273/2/
Paramylodon is an extinct genus of sloths, one of the two types of ground sloths that have been recovered. Paleontologists have estimated these sloths lived approximately 4.9 million years ago to ~11,000 years ago. First discovered in 1897 in Hay Spring, Nebraska then accessioned into the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. This first expedition acquired a skull, mandible, a few vertebrae, ribs, feet, and hand bones. After the bones were curated into the museum collection they were studied by Barnum Brown who published the new genus in 1903. Since then there have been bones discovered across the North American continent.
Articulated skeleton of Paramylodon harlani. Source: https://www.utep.edu/leb/pleistNM/taxaMamm/Paramylodon.htm
Paramylodon could weight up to ~1000 kg (2200lbs) and could stand around 9-10 feet tall. There is currently only 1 species of Paramylodon, P. harlani. This sloth has been known to have dermal ossicles which are small bones attached to the skin which add a layer of protection for the animal. It was a very large and strong animal that had strong claws for protection and acquiring food. They lived as solitary animals mainly in open grasslands. There is evidence they were slower and clumsy animals relying on vegetation for their diet.
Paramylodon went extinct around the same time as much other ice age megafauna (11,500-11,000 years ago) though the reason for this mass extinction is still hotly debated. On going research on ground sloths continues all around the world.
Thanks for reading!
Brown, B. (1903): A new genus of ground sloth from the Pleistocene of Nebraska. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 19:569–583.