1812 Sloth skeleton by Cuvier

1812 Sloth skeleton by Cuvier

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Credit: PAUL D STEWART/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Skeleton of a three toad sloth, or 'Ai', copperplate engraving from Cuvier's "Ossamens Fossiles" 1812. Cuvier saw that the key to understanding fossils was to relate their bones to animals currently known. In this he was the father of comparative anatomy - a field that was to be crucial to the founding of modern biology. Here a modern sloth provides reference for the even larger bones of the extinct ground sloth megatherium that had been discovered in South America and displayed in Spain. Cuvier was among the first to realise the reality of extinction.

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Keywords: 19th century, ai, artwork, black and white, black-and-white, comparative anatomy, cuvier, fossil, giant, ground sloth, herbivore, illustration, mega fauna, megatherium, monochrome, mylodon, skeleton, sloth

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