Scientists Discover Remains Of 22 Ice Age Sloths The Size Of Elephants

A new report reveals that the remains of some 22 Ice Age sloths the size of modern-day elephants were found preserved in a slab of asphalt located in Ecuador.

Giant Sloth Fossils Found In Ecuador

Recently, a team of scientists were able to uncover fossil remains of an ancient sloth species, called Eremotherium laurillardi, in Ecuador. Preserved in asphalt from the Tanque Loma site on the country’s Santa Elena peninsula, the specimens include 15 adults, five juveniles and two newborns or fetuses. Unlike modern-day sloths that are very slow and languid, however, E. laurillardi had the ability to walk quickly on two legs. Furthermore, they were also mostly territorial and the size of modern-day elephants, earning them the nickname giant sloths.

As for the fossils, however, researchers believe they didn’t fall into a tar pit, where they got stuck and died 20,000 years ago. But they most likely perished by drinking water that have been contaminated by their own feces. Seeping asphalt then managed to preserve their dead bodies, along with a prehistoric deer, a horse, a pampathere that resembled an armadillo and a gomphothere that looked like an elephant.

Per reports, the study was led by University of California Los Angeles paleontologist Emily Lindsey. Additionally, Lindsey also serves as an excavation site director and assistant curator at the famous La Brea Tar Pits.

“For years, everyone has thought of the classic scenario at the La Brea Tar Pits, where a large herbivore would get stuck in Asphalt, then a bunch of carnivores would be attracted to the trapped animal and get stuck… etc. Nothing got stuck at Tanque Loma! The animals died in a aquatic setting like many other fossil sites, and the bones just fortuitously got preserved by seeping asphalt. It blew my mind when I first realized that,” Lindsey said.

According to the researchers, this idea is also further added upon by the nature of the sediments at Tanque Loma, which researchers said are indicators that 20,000 years ago, the now-dry area was a marsh.

However, save for a few broken-up plant remains, the site turned up zero aquatic fossils.

Pygmy Sloth Located on a small island off the coast of Panama, there are less than 500 pygmy sloths. Habitat destruction is minimizing their already small environment. Suggested Action Required: Scientists hope to raise awareness, as well as enforce protection of the Isla Escudo de Veraguas' nature sanctuary. Flickr/geese