|Rusty, the giant ground sloth,|
University of Iowa Museum.
There were something like 80 types of ground sloths, and there's no way I'm going to talk about all of them, so I have just picked one very interesting species to tell you about, and its name is Megalonyx jeffersonii, which means "Jefferson's big claw." The "Jefferson" part of the name actually came from Thomas Jefferson, the man you might have learned about in your grade-school history class, who wrote the Declaration of Independence and also later was the third president of the United States.
|The very bones that puzzled Mr. Jefferson|
And when Mr. Jefferson saw the bones, he thought they had maybe belonged to a humongous bear or tiger or something. But nobody knew of any animals that had bones like that. Which didn't mean there weren't any. It just meant they hadn't found these animals yet. Because back in those days, people didn't know about dinosaurs or other extinct animals. They only figured that stuff out later, with the help of a man named Charles Darwin.
|Yummy leaves! Oh boy!|
|The tooth of a ground sloth|
Eventually, people figured out that the giant ground sloth wasn't around anymore, but they could kind of guess what it must have looked like by studying its bones. And what they decided was that it had been about 8 to 10 feet long, with a short, wide head, a strong jaw, and teeth that looked kind of like pegs. And it might have weighed as much as 800 pounds, which meant it was actually only a medium-sized giant ground sloth.