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(mĕgəthēr`ēəm) [Gr.,=large beast], extinct ground sloth, of the genus Megatherium, that was widely distributed in North and South America in the Pleistocene epoch. Fossil evidence shows that these mammals became extinct comparatively recently, about the time that the first explorers reached the New World. A huge beast, the megatherium attained a length of 18 ft (5.5 m) and probably weighed several tons. The hind legs and tail were massive, the forelegs slender and supple; the animal probably supported itself much of the time in a semierect position on its hind legs and tail and used its forelegs to pull from trees the foliage on which it fed. The megatherium is classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Edentata, family Megatheriidae.



a genus of fossil mammals of the order Edentata; giant ground sloths. Remains, including complete skeletons, have been found in Pleistocene deposits of North and South America. Megatherium had a massive trunk measuring up to 6 m long and short legs. It fed on leaves and young shoots, which it obtained by standing upright and, resting on its powerful tail, bending the branches with the long curved claws of its forelimbs.

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Since then, humans have taken over responsibility from the giant sloths for the avocado's survival but how it managed to get through the first 10,000 or so years after the giant sloth's extinction remains a mystery.
That is one of the conclusions of the first study of how mammals in North America adapted to climate change in "deep time" - a period of 56 million years beginning with the Eocene and ending 12,000 years ago with the terminal Pleistocene extinction when mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, giant sloths and most of the other "megafauna" on the continent disappeared.
A vast grassy plain stretches out before you, and thousands of varieties of animals roam free - from giant-tusked mammoths to giant sloths, from saber-toothed tigers to tiny birds, from early bison to antelope and camels.
It argues that some of the Ice Age megafauna (which in North America include the woolly mammoth, saber-toothed cat, giant sloths, and others) used ancient Tibet as a "training ground" for developing adaptations that allowed them to cope with the severe climatic conditions.
Through the fridge, Ernie and Floyd not only see strange animals like glyptodons, giant sloths and sabertooth cats, they see big dollar signs and hatch a plan to lead Ice Age Safaris for well-heeled hunters.
Blending traditional and contemporary exhibition techniques, it showcases the last 75,000,000 years in the Southern and Baja California bio-region known among scientists for its extraordinarily rich fossil record, which includes mammoths, sea cows, lions, dinosaurs, walruses, giant sloths, saber-tooth cats, dire wolves, whales, and predatory sharks three times the size of great whites.
You can see giant sloths, toucans and monkeys near Panama City," Hanna says.
Among the discoveries unveiled, Denver airport is situated on the site of what was once a vast grazing ground for wildlife, while the sunshine state of Florida was inhabited by giant sloths and armoured glyptodonts.
He confronts giant sloths, huge armadillos and "terror birds".
During the Pleistocene Epoch, which ended about 11,000 years ago, this scavenger dined on the carcasses of mastodons, giant sloths, primitive horses, and other megafauna of the time.
Some argue that it was a humanborne microbe that did in the North American mastodons, camels, and giant sloths at this time.
Divers found the Naia's remains along with the bones of other extinct animals like giant sloths and sabertooth cats.