The Hunt For The Giant Ground Sloth

EnolaGaia

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Didn't see a thread dedicated to this particular item (just mentions in other South American monster threads), so ...

Amazon Monster Is Only a Myth. Or Is It?

By LARRY ROHTER,
The New York Times

Posted: 2007-07-08 13:22:40


RIO BRANCO, Brazil (July 8) -- Perhaps it is nothing more than a legend, as skeptics say. Or maybe it is real, as those who claim to have seen it avow. But the mere mention of the mapinguary, the giant slothlike monster of the Amazon, is enough to send shivers down the spines of almost all who dwell in the world’s largest rain forest.

...

In some areas, the creature is said to have two eyes, while in other accounts it has only one, like the Cyclops of Greek mythology. It's said to be more than seven feet tall and covered in thick, matted fur.
The folklore here is full of tales of encounters with the creature, and nearly every Indian tribe in the Amazon, including those that have had no contact with one another, have a word for the mapinguary (pronounced ma-ping-wahr-EE). The name is usually translated as “the roaring animal” or “the fetid beast.”

So widespread and so consistent are such accounts that in recent years a few scientists have organized expeditions to try to find the creature. They have not succeeded, but at least one says he can explain the beast and its origins.

“It is quite clear to me that the legend of the mapinguary is based on human contact with the last of the ground sloths,” thousands of years ago, said David Oren, a former director of research at the Goeldi Institute in Belém, at the mouth of the Amazon River. “We know that extinct species can survive as legends for hundreds of years. But whether such an animal still exists or not is another question, one we can’t answer yet.”

Dr. Oren said he had talked to “a couple of hundred people” who had said they had seen the mapinguary in the most remote parts of the Amazon and a handful who had said they had had direct contact.

In some areas, the creature is said to have two eyes, while in other accounts it has only one, like the Cyclops of Greek mythology. Some tell of a gaping, stinking mouth in the monster’s belly through which it consumes humans unfortunate enough to cross its path.

But all accounts agree that the creature is tall, seven feet or more when it stands on two legs, that it emits a strong, extremely disagreeable odor, and that it has thick, matted fur, which covers a carapace that makes it all but impervious to bullets and arrows.

“The only way you can kill a mapinguary is by shooting at its head,” said Domingos Parintintin, a tribal leader in Amazonas State. “But that is hard to do because it has the power to make you dizzy and turn day into night. So the best thing to do if you see one is climb a tree and hide.”

Geovaldo Karitiana, 27, a member of the Karitiana tribe, claims to have seen one about three years ago, as he was hunting in the jungle near an area that his tribe calls “the cave of the mapinguary.”

“It was coming toward the village and was making a big noise,” he said in a recent interview on the tribe’s reservation in the western Amazon. “It stopped when it got near me, and that’s when the bad smell made me dizzy and tired. I fainted, and when I came to, the mapinguary was gone.”

Mr. Karitiana’s father, Lucas, confirmed his son’s account. He said that when his son took him back to the site of the encounter, he saw a cleared pathway where the creature had departed, “as if a boulder had rolled through and knocked down all the trees and vines.”

Though the descriptions of the mapinguary may resemble the sasquatch of North America or the yeti of Himalayan lore, the comparisons stop there. Unlike its counterparts in the Northern Hemisphere, the creature is said not to flee human contact, but to aggressively hunt down the hunter, turning the tables on those who do not respect the jungle’s unwritten rules and limits.

“Often, the mapinguary gets revenge on people who transgress, who go where they shouldn’t go or harvest more animals or plants than they can consume, or set cruel traps,” said Márcio Souza, a prominent Brazilian novelist and playwright who lives in Manaus, in the central Amazon, and often draws on Amazon history and folklore in his works.

Amazon folklore, in fact, is full of fanciful creatures that are used to explain unwelcome or embarrassing phenomena. The boto, for example, is a type of dolphin that is said to be able to transform itself into human form, wearing a white hat to cover its air spout, and seducing and impregnating impressionable young virgins.

When a hunter or woodsman gets lost in the jungle, he often blames the curupira, a mischievous red-haired elf who has feet that face backward and takes delight in making trails that lead travelers astray. And when an experienced navigator inexplicably disappears or drowns in calm waters, he is usually said to have fallen victim to the iara, a cross between a siren and a mermaid.

“If you’re a rubber tapper and you’re returning to camp empty-handed, you’d better have a pretty good explanation for your boss,” said Marcos Vinícius Neves, director of the government’s department of historical and cultural patrimony in Acre State, where a statue of a mapinguary has been erected at a public plaza here in the capital. “The mapinguary is the best excuse you could possible imagine.”

Mr. Souza, the writer, counts himself among those who believe the mapinguary is a myth. The deforestation of the Amazon has accelerated so rapidly over the last generation, he argues, that if the creature really existed, “there would have been some sort of close encounter of the third kind by now.”

Partly for that reason, most zoologists scoff at the notion that it could be real.

The giant ground sloth, Megatherium, was once one of the largest mammals to walk the earth, bigger than a modern elephant. Fossil evidence is abundant and widespread, found as far south as Chile and as far north as Florida. But the trail stops cold thousands of years ago.

“When you travel in the Amazon, you are constantly hearing about this animal, especially when you are in contact with indigenous peoples,” said Peter Toledo, an expert on sloths at the Goeldi Institute. “But convincing scientific proof, in the form of even vestiges of bones, blood or excrement, is always lacking.”

Glenn Shepard Jr., an American ethnobiologist and anthropologist based in Manaus, said he was among the skeptics until 1997, when he was doing research about local wildlife among the Machiguenga people of the far western Amazon, in Peru. Tribal members all mentioned a fearsome slothlike creature that inhabited a hilly, forested area in their territory.

Dr. Shepard said “the clincher that really blew me away” came when a member of the tribe remarked matter of factly that he had also seen a mapinguary at the natural history museum in Lima. Dr. Shepard checked; the museum has a diorama with a model of the giant prehistoric ground sloth.

“At the very least, what we have here is an ancient remembrance of a giant sloth, like those found in Chile recently, that humans have come into contact with,” he said. “Let me put it this way: Just because we know that mermaids and sirens are myths doesn’t mean that manatees don’t exist.”

Even so, the mystery of the mapinguary is likely to continue, as is the search.

“There’s still an awful lot of room out there for a large sloth to be roaming around,” Dr. Shepard said.


Posted on AOL News, 8 July 2007:

http://news.aol.com/story/_a/amazon-mon ... 0000000001
 

oldrover

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Whilst re-watching 'Life on Earth' yesterday I was pleasently surprised to see the programme turn to the giant sloth hide found at Mylodon Cave/Ceuva Eberhardt at Last Hope Inlet Patagonia.

http://www.andaman.org/BOOK/chapter54/t ... onCave.jpg

I think this is the largest and best preserved fragment of the hide, today in London's Natural History Museum

http://i104.photobucket.com/albums/m168 ... h_skin.jpg

Personally I'm amazed this thing doesn't get much more attention, not because it suggests there may have been mylodon living in the 19th C, of course it doesn't, but because it's a beautiful insight into one of the most exotic of the mega fauna.

Here's an article which details the excitement, or over excitement, surrounding its discovery.

http://scienceblogs.com/laelaps/2009/04 ... ast-megat/

Although the idea of an giant amphibious ground sloth might sound strange it shouldn't.

http://laelaps.wordpress.com/2007/07/02 ... h-america/

Aside from this skin I can remember a programme back in the 80's (?) but very probably made before that, which mentioned another large giant ground sloth hide that was recovered from an Indian village, though it turned out to be equally ancient. Does this ring any bells with anyone here?
 

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Off at something of a non-scientifically-useful tangent here; but I seem to be aware of a tantalising suggestion of a happening in the course of the circumnavigation of the globe, 1740 -- 44, by Lord George Anson's fleet. One of his ships, the "Wager", was wrecked off the islands at the tip of South America, which include Cape Horn. The ship's crew survived, though suffering dreadful privations, and ultimately got back to civilisation overland. I've seen suggestions that while on -- whichever island as above; some of the crew encountered a living giant ground sloth.

On reflection, I suspect that this might come from the pair of novels written in the 1950s by Patrick O'Brian (he of Aubrey and Maturin), about the Anson expedition. I read the books years ago, and seem to recall narration of an encounter on the island concerned, with something very big, noisy, and alarming; though if memory serves, the author did not actually come out with the "GGS" or "M" words. O'Brian was, in various ways, a highly inventive chap -- he might well have himself dreamed up this incident to put in his novel.

And Gavin Menzies in his book "1421", of more recent date, has a scenario of the Chinese Admiral Zheng He's worldwide exploration fleet in the early 15th century, collecting a few live mylodons in Patagonia, with some of them, as a result of shipwreck, later turning up in New Zealand; but I understand that the general verdict on Menzies is that he is mad, or a charlatan, or both.
 

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This doesn't appear to have been mentioned here before:

The giant ground sloth is one of the most charismatic of extinct creatures. Dwelling in South America Megatherium was, when it tore down trees, and walked over the pampa, the size of a small elephant and was finally hunted out of existence about 10,000 years ago: one of the victims of homo sapiens’ remorseless expansion. However, in the late nineteenth century rumours began to appear that the giant sloth had survived in a secret corner of Patagonia. Here is the first glimmers of interest in a search in a British newspaper dated 7 Jan 1899 (Croy Guard)

Considerable interest attaches to the expedition to Southern Patagonia on which Mr. H. S. H. Cavendish and Mr. Edward Dodson have just started…. A short time back zoologists were roused to unwonted excitement by a report, apparently well authenticated, concerning a mysterious quadruped said to exist in the interior of the territory of Santa Cruz, living in burrows hollowed out in the soil, and coming out only at night. According to the reports of the natives, it was a strange creature with long claws and a terrifying appearance, and impossible to kill because it had a body impenetrable alike to firearms and missiles.

More at the link:
http://www.strangehistory.net/2018/04/18/mysterious-sloth-monster-in-patagonia/
 

oldrover

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This doesn't appear to have been mentioned here before:



More at the link:
http://www.strangehistory.net/2018/04/18/mysterious-sloth-monster-in-patagonia/

I don't believe for a second that a giant sloth survived anytime recently,but this is very interesting none the less. I'm not sure that the stories cited all necessarily refer to asloth like animal either, I've heard them before and someof them are also used to zuggest aquatic saber tooths and other imaginary geasts. I suppose thry're so vague writers can spin them to suit.

None the less, it is interedting that some of these tales mention their living in excavated burrows, which we now know giant sloths did, or at least some of them, and also that some of them had become semi-aquatic, just like the stories.

This sort of thing is cryptozoology at itsbest, thanks for posting.
 

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I watched a documentary about this. Another interesting thing is that P. T. Barnum(I think) is meant to have had a creature known as an indian prairie fiend in his circus. Some think this was a giant sloth.
 

oldrover

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The sloth skin mentioned can be seen at thd link, which also shows the small bones embedded undee the skin. Something which have led some writers to suggest isthe reason why the reported animals appear sometimes to be immune to bullets, or at least dhotgun pellets, some of the time anyway, depending on who you ask.

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=g...0#imgdii=2JQFF88ePKkvNM:&imgrc=hXyTXobSuZIoYM:

The second link shows one of their burrows

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=g...d=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8#imgrc=lqspVU3YwA0zKM:

A detail left outof thelink in the OP, is that the animal immune to bullets is also known as the mapinguary, and supposedly it has an extra mouth in its stomach. I don't believe it, but if I was going to speculate, I'd say this was best explained as a pouch. And given the mapinguary's violent reputation, perhaps it's a surviving member of the ancient family of Metathetian South American predators the Sparassadonts.
 

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There was a time when humans hunted and fought giant sloths.

Ancient human-sloth hunt hinted at in 15,000-year-old footprints
By Sid Perkins Apr. 25, 2018 , 2:20 PM

Sometime between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago, a giant ground sloth—a hairy, lumbering beast that weighed as much as a metric ton—wandered along a lakeshore in what is now southern New Mexico. Then, something spooked it. It reared up on its hind legs, swatted at its attackers, and then was lost to the ages.

The dramatic scene has been preserved for millennia in the first-ever trackways, or sets of fossilized footprints, that may chronicle human hunters in action against big prey. In some cases, the human prints lie inside those of the sloths, indicating hot pursuit. The find adds credence to the idea that, in the waning days of the last ice age, people may have played a large role in driving these creatures—as well as other giant mammals like mammoths and mastodons—to extinction.

“This is a fascinating find,” says Jordana Meyer, a conservation ecologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who wasn’t involved in the new study. She has worked extensively with native big-game trackers in Africa, and she says it’s plausible that the human-and-sloth trackways “show hunters in action.” ...

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/04/ancient-human-sloth-hunt-hinted-15000-year-old-footprints
 
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oldrover

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As has been pointed out slsewhere, that is one weird illustration.
 

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“This is a fascinating find,” says Jordana Meyer, a conservation ecologist

Hard to disagree with that! The mega fauna also disappeared in Australia after humans arrived. Anything large and slow seems to have been too tasty to resist. That sadly includes the Diprotodon - the original Kingsize Wombat.
 

oldrover

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Hard to disagree with that! The mega fauna also disappeared in Australia after humans arrived. Anything large and slow seems to have been too tasty to resist. That sadly includes the Diprotodon - the original Kingsize Wombat.

And Thylacleo carnifex, the official killer wombat/koala monster. The real dropbear.
 

Brig

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I read this week in the British "Science Focus" about 5 birds and animals that had been declared extinct for years that suddenly showed up again very much alive. So I still have hopes for the Tasmanian wolf. Not all of these critters were especially small either.
 

Kingsize Wombat

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Good comments all - but we're getting away from the poor old sloth...
 

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Getting rather whimsical, perhaps, vis-a-vis serious cryptozoology; but -- the putatively-surviving giant sloth of Patagonia gets a "bit part" in the couple of novels by Patrick O' Brian (most renowned for his "Aubrey and Maturin" Napoleonic naval series) about the 1740 - 44 circumnavigation of the globe by Admiral Anson's fleet. This essentially "faction" pair of books, include the adventures of the ship's company of the fleet's vessel Wager, wrecked off the tip of Patagonia -- the ship's personnel undergoing prolonged, ghastly hardships in the course of battling their way back to civilisation. A passage in the novel tells of these chaps having a close (non-lethal) encounter with an alarming beast which is clearly a giant ground sloth, though not identified in the book as such -- logically enough: "Patagonian giant ground sloth" would have meant nothing to anyone, anywhere, in the 1740s.

O'Brian, a decidedly prolific author aside from "Aubrey / Maturin", also wrote a stand-alone novel (which I've read -- title forgotten) -- of "adventure on the roof of the world", featuring yetis. One could suspect him of having, at the least, a soft spot for things cryptozoological.
 

EnolaGaia

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The sloth skin mentioned can be seen at thd link, which also shows the small bones embedded undee the skin. Something which have led some writers to suggest isthe reason why the reported animals appear sometimes to be immune to bullets, or at least dhotgun pellets, some of the time anyway, depending on who you ask. ...

Just a quick quibble ...

The 'giant ground sloth' is Megatherium, which seems to have gone extinct by circa 10,000 years BP. I cannot locate any confirmation of skin or hair samples claimed to be attributable to Megatherium.

The skin specimens are known from the ground sloth Mylodon - half the size of Megatherium, and generally estimated to have survived to a few thousand years later. The pictures of skin specimens in the Google link are noted as being from Mylodon rather than Megatherium.

Citations of skin / hair samples seem to commonly (and mistakenly ... ) associate the Mylodon samples with the earlier / larger Megatherium.
 

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Just a quick quibble ...

The 'giant ground sloth' is Megatherium, which seems to have gone extinct by circa 10,000 years BP. I cannot locate any confirmation of skin or hair samples claimed to be attributable to Megatherium.

The skin specimens are known from the ground sloth Mylodon - half the size of Megatherium, and generally estimated to have survived to a few thousand years later. The pictures of skin specimens in the Google link are noted as being from Mylodon rather than Megatherium.

Citations of skin / hair samples seem to commonly (and mistakenly ... ) associate the Mylodon samples with the earlier / larger Megatherium.

All the skins I've ever been aware of are Mylodon.

Of all the Pleistocene mammals we missed, I struggle to think of a group I'm more put out not to have seen than the ground sloths. Except the large marsupials.
 

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Doc on ground sloths. They are looking in the wrong area. If there are any left they will be in the rainforest not on open plains.
 

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New info on sloths is slowly emerging.

From elephant-size animals that browsed North American grasslands to moose-size swimmers that plied the Pacific coast of South America, sloths have roamed Earth for more than 50 million years.

Yet scientists know little about how the dozens of known species are related to each other. Now, two new analyses of ancient sloth DNA and proteins—some of which are more than 100,000 years old—are rewriting the sloth family tree. The studies even suggest a land bridge connected the West Indies with South America 30 million years ago, allowing the slow-moving animals to reach the islands.

“It’s a remarkable achievement,” says Timothy Gaudin, a paleontologist at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, who was not involved in the work.

Of the more than 100 sloth species identified, all but six are extinct. So scientists have had to compare the shapes of fossil bones to piece together how the animals evolved. Such comparisons are not clear-cut, however, and new techniques for isolating DNA and proteins from fossils have made it possible to compare the genetics of long-extinct animals. Ancient DNA allows scientists to compare genes directly, but proteins last longer. So although they provide less precise information, paleontologists are increasingly using them to study even older fossils.

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/201...ly_2019-06-06&et_rid=394299689&et_cid=2850152
 
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ramonmercado

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There was a time when humans hunted and fought giant sloths.

Ancient human-sloth hunt hinted at in 15,000-year-old footprints
By Sid Perkins Apr. 25, 2018 , 2:20 PM

Sometime between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago, a giant ground sloth—a hairy, lumbering beast that weighed as much as a metric ton—wandered along a lakeshore in what is now southern New Mexico. Then, something spooked it. It reared up on its hind legs, swatted at its attackers, and then was lost to the ages.

The dramatic scene has been preserved for millennia in the first-ever trackways, or sets of fossilized footprints, that may chronicle human hunters in action against big prey. In some cases, the human prints lie inside those of the sloths, indicating hot pursuit. The find adds credence to the idea that, in the waning days of the last ice age, people may have played a large role in driving these creatures—as well as other giant mammals like mammoths and mastodons—to extinction.

“This is a fascinating find,” says Jordana Meyer, a conservation ecologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who wasn’t involved in the new study. She has worked extensively with native big-game trackers in Africa, and she says it’s plausible that the human-and-sloth trackways “show hunters in action.” ...

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/04/ancient-human-sloth-hunt-hinted-15000-year-old-footprints

Maybe the sloths hunted humans as well.

Modern sloths may be dedicated vegetarians, but at least one of their massive Ice Age cousins chowed down on meat when it had the chance.

Darwin’s ground sloth — which could grow to over 3 meters long and weigh as much as about 2,000 kilograms — may have been an opportunistic scavenger, chemical analyses of fossil sloth hair suggest.

Paleontologist Julia Tejada of the University of Montpellier in France and colleagues analyzed the chemical makeup of two amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, within the fossil hair of two giant ground sloth species: Darwin’s ground sloth (Mylodon darwinii) of South America and the Shasta ground sloth (Nothrotheriops shastensis) of North America (SN: 4/25/18). The team compared these with samples from living sloths, anteaters and other modern omnivores.

Nitrogen isotopes, different forms of the element, can vary a lot among different food sources as well as between ecosystems. Those isotope values in one amino acid, glutamine, change significantly with diet, increasing the higher the animal is on the food chain. But diet has little impact on the nitrogen values in another amino acid, phenylalamine. By comparing the nitrogen isotopes in the two amino acids found in the sloths’ hair, the researchers were able to eliminate ecosystem effects and zoom in on diets.

The data reveal that while the diet of the Shasta ground slothwas exclusively plant-based, Darwin’s ground sloth was an omnivore, Tejada and colleagues report October 7 in Scientific Reports.

The findings upend what scientists thought they knew about the ancient animals. Scientists have assumed the ancient creatures were herbivores. That’s in part because all six modern species of sloth are confirmed vegetarians, and in part giant ground sloths’ teeth and jaws weren’t adapted for hunting or powerful chewing and tearing (SN: 6/20/16). ...

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/giant-ground-sloths-meat-scavenger-paleontology
 
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