Jefferson's Ground Sloth
Exotic, but common during the Ice Age, Jefferson's ground sloth first appeared in the Illinois Episode of the Quaternary Period. Unlike many species that came from the Bering Strait land bridge, Megaloonyx jeffersoni came from the south, spreading northward as far as Alaska. Large, more than seven feet tall when upright, jeffersoni was heavily furred and possessed a broad, strong tail that served as a prop for reaching branches. Its feet, unlike those of tree sloths, bore the animals weight on its soles, further providing stability for upward reaching. Its teeth were specialized for leaf stripping. Despite long tapered claws, the sloth probably could not defend itself well and may have been prey for large carnivores. Ground sloths were widely distributed over North America during the Ice Age. Remains of the sloth have been found in central Illinois. In southern North America and in South America, ground sloths attained the size of elephants. A specimen seventeen feet tall was found in Florida.