PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
A very early Megatherium print, Published 1799, Paris for "Histoire naturelle generale et particuliere" after the Comte de Buffon by Charles Nicolas Sigisbert Sonnini. Megatherium - a giant ground sloth been found in Argentina near Buenos Aires in 1787 (Darwin would make similar discoveries on the Beagle) and was sent to Madrid. It was mounted in the pose shown here by Juan Bautista Bru and put on display. Cuvier wrote his 1812 description secondhand from drawings and a description sent by Bru. Cuvier realised it bore a resemblance to the much smaller tree sloth. He proposed Megatherium was a giant ground sloth. As such a big animal would have been seen if it were alive, Cuvier suggested must be extinct. Until that time most fossils were assumed to be of creatures still alive somewhere on the globe.
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