Fossils have always been an important part of history, helping us to learn more about the various species that walked this earth before us. As humans, we are intrigued by the past, and fossils are the key to discovering what and who did exist many years ago, long before we populated this earth.
This year, a brand-new discovery by Costa Rican scientists has led to much excitement, as a new type of giant sloth – the ‘Sibotherium Ka’ – has finally been revealed after years of research. Through studying fossilized remains, including comparing these fossils to that of other ancient sloths, scientists have – after conducting research since 2003 – concluded that this magnificent sloth roamed the earth more than 5.8 million years ago. Crazy, right?
Well, what’s even more fascinating is that there were no records of this sloth being discovered before, meaning that these fossils may be the only thing left of this ‘terrestrial sloth’ to exist in the modern day. It’s no surprise this is such a big discovery for the Costa Rican scientists, who may never have made such a discovery if it wasn’t for these few remaining fossils.
Not only have the fossils made us aware of the existence of this new ‘genus of giant sloth’, but they have helped us to learn more about their traits and characteristics. From examining the fossils, which consisted of skull fragments, ribs and vertebrae, the scientists were able to conclude that the sloth was around three metres high and of a weight of around 7 tonnes.
This sloth is predicted to also have been strong with powerful claws, both of which helped it to defend itself from all potential predators. Their height was also seen as crucial to their survival, as it helped them to reach for food among the trees, which is highly important for these herbivores.
If it weren’t for the remains of these fossils, or the dedication of the scientists examining these remains, we would have never known that this sloth ever existed. The fossils themselves have created a part of history that we were unaware of, leaving us more educated and aware of what occurred before our existence.
Nowadays, sloths of the modern day are at risk of population decline due to the current nature of deforestation and climate change. To stop them becoming extinct and leaving only a few fossils behind as evidence of their existence, there is a Go-Fund me page that contributes towards the rescue and release of modern-day sloths in Costa Rica! For Spanish-speaking audiences, donations can be made using this link.
To continue celebrating such discoveries as this one, stay tuned for more posts about the sloths of the past, the sloths of today, and sloth evolution!