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Palaeontology

Fossil footprints hint at giant sloth chase

April 26, 2018 | Comment icon 13 comments



Sloths once grew to enormous sizes. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.5 Wikipedia Loves Art
New evidence has been discovered to suggest that our ancestors hunted down giant prehistoric sloths.
Given the small size and rather docile temperament of today's sloths, it's hard to imagine that, thousands of years ago, there existed huge, hulking sloths that weighed up to 4 tons.

Now a set of 11,000-year-old fossilized footprints discovered in New Mexico has revealed that these creatures not only lived in the region, but were also actively hunted by our own ancestors.

The prints, which measure 20 inches across, each have a smaller human print nestled inside them, suggesting that the creature's pursuers were following very closely behind.

"The human footprints share the same long-axis orientation and occur inside the sloth track outline, indicating that the human trackmaker was walking intentionally within the sloth track," scientist Matthew Bennett and colleagues wrote in a new paper.
"These steps required the person to adjust her/his normal stride to accommodate the longer stride of the sloth."

While it had long been suspected that humans would have hunted giant sloths either for food or fur, this discovery offers the first direct evidence that this actually took place.

Some of the prints even suggest that the sloth may have attempted to defend against the attack.

"The circular sloth trackways are consistent with defensive behaviors in which sloths reared on their hind-limbs, freeing their forelimbs for defence," the researchers wrote.

"We termed these structures 'flailing circles'."

Source: Science Alert | Comments (13)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #4 Posted by Oniomancer 4 years ago
One dos not normally expect to see the words sloth and chase together in the same sentence.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Oniomancer 4 years ago
 
Comment icon #6 Posted by paperdyer 4 years ago
It must have been a short pursuit!
Comment icon #7 Posted by Jon the frog 4 years ago
They need to revive all these lost species so I can taste them on my BBQ !
Comment icon #8 Posted by Nnicolette 4 years ago
Yeah and when I suggested people hunted them I was ridiculed and told they didn't have to worry about predators... Now they find proof of it and you think flooding wiped them out? Honestly do you think any giant animal has ever gone extinct from a flood? No. Not likely by any means. Did anything else go extinct in this great flood? Or just the things we were hunting?
Comment icon #9 Posted by Piney 4 years ago
It wasn't one it was 4 major glacier lakes that cut loose and really messed up the plant life and we did hunt them, but not to extinction. The North American environment was really nasty. That's what did them in. I have a background in archaeology, geology and anthropology. It isn't a musing. I been on a team tracking the glacier floodwater. I've been on digs that have done pollen floatation. What is your background? 
Comment icon #10 Posted by Hammerclaw 4 years ago
Sea levels rose, we lost our vast coastal plains that teemed with megafauna. As the ice sheets melted, they no longer had the mountain effect on atmospheric circulation over the continent and the rain belts moved south causing desertification of a great swath of the heartland. Habitat loss caused a drastic reduction of grazing and browsing species with a consequent reduction of predator species. While human predation factors into the extinction event, it was but one of many and not the most significant one at that. In fact, new discoveries are hinting at a much longer presence of man in the Ne... [More]
Comment icon #11 Posted by Nnicolette 4 years ago
Do you actually think that means you tracked the demise of the last sloth? What does that have to do with pollen?  Did you even study sloths? Ever seen a piece of one? I recently turned down an archaeology job, I do nothing. Nothing. What do you mean by background tho? I have one as well but i hardly find it relevant to have to list my formal relations in a discussion of plain observances. I've collected quite a few prehistoric fossils tho in my downtime I'm not going to pretend that your self proclaimed authority means people didn't hunt sloths though, because obviously they did. Also won't p... [More]
Comment icon #12 Posted by Piney 4 years ago
I did say we hunted sloths! I also said the pollen indicated a loss of plants which the sloths eat!  Can you read?
Comment icon #13 Posted by Aardvark-DK 4 years ago
Maybe big sloths were fast, and deadly... ;)


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