May 26, 2009

5 Million Year Old Sloth Found In Peru

An almost entirely complete fossil of a prehistoric sloth that roamed the earth nearly 5 million years ago has been discovered in Peru, a discovery that is 4 million years older than comparable fossils found in both the Americas, researchers announced.

The sloth was unearthed from under the floor of a house in southern Peru during the installation of a water system. Fractions of a large armadillo that is close to 5 million years old were also dug up close by.

The 10 foot long sloth was an herbivore and existed in the Mio-Pliocene era, stated paleontologist Rodolfo Salas from Peru's Natural History Museum and one of the researchers on the excavation.

"This skeleton of the sloth is especially important as it is the first complete skeleton of its kind that is 5 million years old in the Americas," Salas said to Reuters News.

"Previously, discoveries have been made of partial skeletons of similar animals, but from the Pleistocene era, meaning from the last million years."

The remains were discovered at 13,000 feet above sea level.

Salas noted that the sloth was comparatively petite when measured against other creatures similar to it.

This monumental find will help researchers in developing a more complete understanding of how the evolution of mammals developed in the Andes.

Peru's arid climate has assisted in preserving thousands of fossils spread around the Pacific coast up to the Andes highlands, making the area a favorite haunt of fossil seekers.


Image Caption: This Giant sloth fossil is on display at the Texas Memorial Museum, University of Texas at Austin. Courtesy Wikipedia