When we think of lazy and prehistoric, we all have the image of Sid in
the Ice Age
. In reality, the beast of the past, far from the somewhat awkward representation of the animated film, looked more like a mix between a bear and an elephant. The discovery in Guyana of the fossilized skeleton of a giant sloth, a species extinct 12,000 years ago and which could weigh up to 4 tons, is a huge step forward in knowledge, for paleontologist Pierre-Olivier Antoine. "This is the first remains of this extinct megafauna found in Guyana and the first of this type found in France, we are going to work on a blank page", enthuses this researcher from the Institute of Evolutionary Sciences in Montpellier. .
Pierre-Olivier Antoine led the expedition which identified the fossilized skeleton of a giant sloth, south of the village of Maripasoula, near the Maroni which marks the border with Suriname.
A herbivorous bear
, that's the name of the species, became extinct 12,000 years ago.
It peaked at four meters when erected on its hind legs and could weigh up to four tons.
Current reconstructions give it the appearance of a bear, but it was herbivorous.
The specimen found was a juvenile, specifies the paleontologist.
The first remains of the fossil were unearthed at the end of 2020 by garimpeiros, illegal miners, who transmitted, via an intermediary, the information to agents of the Amazonian Park of Guyana.
The regional archaeological services then alerted the paleontologists, dispatched to the site.
At a depth of about four meters, "the garimpeiros surely found a complete skeleton", according to Professor Antoine, but they could not extract it entirely.
Many bones have turned to dust, altered by the acidity of the Guyanese soil.
Scientists recovered parts of the jaw, skull, radius, vertebrae and rib.
In search of the lost megafauna
“It was a terrestrial animal and not arboreal, explains Pierre-Olivier Antoine, but with dimensions close to an elephant”.
According to the knowledge of his biotope, he lived in a savannah environment, which has now become a tropical forest.
In other areas of South America, the species has been contemporary with humans, who have even represented it in cave paintings, but in Guyana, Eremotherium laurillardi has not crossed humans.
“We hope to find other megafauna fossils,” continues Pierre-Olivier Antoine.
The presence of insects and a fish tooth among the remains collected suggests that other skeletons could be preserved.
The paleontologist promises that the bones of this giant sloth will be returned to Guyana at the end of their analysis in France.
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