|Giant sloth fossils at the Natural History Museum at the University|
of Florida in Gainesville. Worth a visit! Click for photo credit.
Many do not realize it, but giant sloths lived across North and South America and went extinct just a short while ago. They weighed up to 4 tons and were approximately the same size as an elephant. They were about 20 feet long. As large vegetarians, they had few natural enemies.
They started to go extinct across the Americas when people first came into the continents across the Bering Land Bridge in the most recent Ice Age. They were largely extinct on the continents about 10,000 years ago, although the last one in the Caribbean disappeared about 2,000 years ago (the Caribbean was the last area settled by humans in the Americas). Some have claimed that they have seen them in the mountains of the Andes, although that is probably just a Bigfoot type of rumor. The giant sloths didn't have a chance against the early settlers. They were easy food and never developed defensive skills since they didn't really have any major predators.
Many fossils of this creature have been found in the Cenozoic rocks of Florida. They were probably very common creatures throughout the continents, but due to the good preservation of fossils in Florida from the Cenozoic, we have learned much about them.