One of the very first things you see when you enter the Highline Heritage Museum is a replica of a Megalonyx skeleton that was found when they were constructing a runway at the Sea-Tac Airport south of Seattle, Washington.
At nearly 10 feet, it towers above you. One of its claws is as big as your hand. It looks quite fearsome, but in fact it’s a giant ground sloth, and it ate only plants.
When Thomas Jefferson was presented with a few of the claws from one of these creatures, he assumed it was a large lion and named it Megalonyx, which is Greek for “Large Claw”. He also assumed that these animals were still living somewhere in the wilds of unexplored America, and asked Lewis and Clark to keep their eyes out for them during their travels (as if they didn’t have enough to stress out about).
Thank goodness Megalonyx actually lived 13,000 years ago, because if I saw something like this wandering about in my back yard, I’d freak out. My little dachshund would probably attack its ankles, and the thing would look at him quizzically and slowly, very slowly, flick him aside like a gnat.
Check out this little video about how sloths evolved from being these giants to the cute little guys we see today. It makes me wonder what the world will be like 13,000 years from now.