The Nothrotheriops, a genus of ground sloths from the Pleistocene , resided in South and North America. Although related to the Megatherium , a much larger and more well-known ground sloth, Nothrotheriops was recently placed in the family Nothrotheriidae. It migrated from South America about one million years ago. The Nothrotheriops has been found as far north as Alberta, Canada, causing it to be one of the most northerly of its kind. However, they primarily lived in the southwest in states like Florida, Texas, and South Carolina.
The bear sized Nothrotheriops fed on many plants like yucca, cactus, and the Desert Globemallow. Native predators like the Smilodon , or saber-toothed cat, hunted these creatures. It is thought that the Nothrotheriops defend itself similarly to the Megatherium, by standing upright on its tail and hind legs and swatting at its enemy with its long fore claws. It is also thought that these claws could have been utilized as a means of reaching softer fruits and flowers behind spines on desert plants.
The Shasta ground sloth is the most well-known species of the Nothrotheriops genus, and it is also the smallest of the ground sloths. Even with its small size, in comparison to its larger relatives, it still grew to be nine feet in length from head to tail and could weigh up to five hundred and fifty pounds. This extinct creature had a large, sturdy tail that could be used to make a tripod when standing on its stout hind legs.
Fossils of the Shasta ground sloth have been found across western North America, but most notably in southwest America. Found in a lava tube at Aden Crater in New Mexcio, the most famous specimen is displayed at Yale Peabody Museum of natural History in New Haven, Connecticut. Nearly complete, it was discovered with tendons and hair that were still preserved. An abundance of dung from the Shasta ground sloth has also been found throughout the southwestern United States, and it has helped to expand the knowledge of their diet.
Image Caption: Nothrotheriops of shastense, nearly full grown, partly mummified body from bat guano in cave. Bones held in articulation by sinews; horny claws still present; patches of hide with traces of hair on head and pelvis. Food ball shows what it lived on. this species is also known from Rancho la Brea. Specimen in Peabody Museum of Yale. Credit: Jesse Earl Hyde/Wikipedia