Fun Mylodon Facts For Kids

Oluniyi Akande
Oct 20, 2022 By Oluniyi Akande
Originally Published on Oct 01, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Learn some amazing Mylodon facts!
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.3 Min

Mylodon is a genus of extinct ground sloths that lived on Earth more than almost 12,000 years ago.

Although modern-day sloths are fairly small-sized animals, they used to be almost the size of an elephant many years ago. The fossil remains of this ground sloth were found in many sites in Argentina and Chile in the southern parts of South America and were dated back to the Late Pleistocene.

These fossils were discovered by Charles Darwin in Argentina while on a survey expedition on HMS Beagle.

Later, in 1840, it was described by Richard Owen based on the specimen of a nearly complete lower jaw and teeth.

The genus consists of four species but the type species is, Mylodon darwinii. It is also sometimes spelled as Mylodon darwini or Mylodon darwinni, but M. darwinii is considered to be more correct.

The fossil remains have been found to be very well-preserved and even some samples of its skin, soft tissue, dung, and fur have been discovered.

Hence, this animal is relatively better known than other prehistoric animals. It would have had a thick coat of long hair and is the only sloth to have had bony plates, or osteoderms, on its skin.

The first remains of its skin were found in 1895 in the Cueva del Milodón Natural Monument in Chile in a large cave that has been named the Mylodon Cave for the many fossil remains found of this animal within it.

There is some evidence that it would have existed around 10,000 years ago, which would mean that it could have been present when one of the very first colonies was emerging in South America.

Humans could have played a big role in their extinction. Samples of the Mylodon feces have been displayed at the Museum of Natural History in New York City, and collection of the bones of the original specimen are in the Natural History Museum, London.

Here are some interesting facts about this giant South American ground sloth!

If you want to learn about other cool prehistoric animals, check out our Patriofelis fun facts and Ludodactylus fun facts for kids pages.

Mylodon Interesting Facts

Was the Mylodon a dinosaur?

No, Mylodon was not a dinosaur. It was a ground sloth that existed during the Late Pleistocene in Argentina and Chile.

How do you pronounce 'Mylodon'?

The name of this animal is pronounced as \ ˈmīləˌdän \, and its phonetic pronunciation is 'My-low-don'.

What type of prehistoric animal was a Mylodon?

Mylodon was a type of mammal, more specifically, a sloth belonging to the large group called Xenarthra, which consists of many mammals such as tree sloths, armadillos, and anteaters.

Richard Owen placed it in Mylodontidae, whose members consist of extinct ground sloths that lived in South and North America.

Recently, the results of a molecular sequence using the Mylodon DNA found from fossils have shown that this ground sloth, along with other members of the same family, is closely related to the two-toed sloths that can be found living today.

Earlier, it was thought that the family containing Megalonyx, another extinct ground sloth, was related to surviving sloths of current times.

This animal is also often confused with and thought to be related to other species of ground sloths such as Glossotherium, Paramylodon, and Megatherium.

These were so similar that the three species in the genus Mylodon are frequently thought to be forms of Glossotherium, Megatherium, and Paramylodon

In which geological period did the Mylodon live?

This ground sloth lived during the Late Pleistocene, which means that it would have existed around 2.6 million years ago until 10,000 years ago. This was around the time humans were starting to emerge in their geographical range.

When did the Mylodon become extinct?

Mylodon darwinii or Mylodon darwini became extinct about 10,000 years ago. The reasons for their extinction could be many.

Human colonies were starting to come up around that time in South America and they could have hunted this animal for food or its skin. However, climate changes could also be why these animals could not survive in the wild any longer, and many other species went extinct around this time as well.

Where did a Mylodon live?

These ground sloths had a wide distribution and range in the South American countries of Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Brazil.

An important site where these fossil mammals were discovered is a system of caves known as Cueva del Milodón in southern Chile, in which the cave called the Mylodon Cave yielded the first specimen of the animal's preserved skin remains.

What was a Mylodon's habitat?

Evidence has suggested that Mylodon darwinii would have been able to adapt to both cold and warm climates, but southern South America would have had predominantly cold conditions during the Pleistocene epoch. From the many fossil and dung remains acquired of these animals, it also seems that they would have inhabited caves.

The structure of their claws indicates that they would have been able to dig and live in burrows as well.

Who did a Mylodon live with?

Ground sloths are known to have lived in groups with others of their kind, as opposed to modern-day sloths which mostly prefer to live independently.

How long did a Mylodon live?

The lifespan of a Mylodon darwinii is currently unknown due to a lack of research.

How did they reproduce?

Not much is known about the reproduction process of these animals, except that they were viviparous, that is, they gave birth to live young like all mammals.

Mylodon Fun Facts

What did a Mylodon look like?

The Mylodon was a giant ground sloth and the remains of its skin and fur have revealed that it would have been reddish-brown in color. The Mylodon skull was found to be slightly more elongated and narrower than other related species.

The skull was elongated mainly because of the narrow snout this sloth possessed. It had a total of 16-18 teeth with the first ones being canine-like but the rest of them were molars.

Like most ground sloths, it walked on the outer sides of its hands so that its claws would not touch the ground. The claws were found to be very long and capable of digging burrows.

Its skin was about 0.4 in (1 cm) thick and covered in hair with no undercoat. It is the only sloth to have had osteoderms on its body, although they were in quite an irregular pattern and oval-shaped.

The Mylodon had an unusually elongated and narrow skull.

How many bones did a Mylodon have?

Since it is only known by bone fragments and a specimen with a complete skeleton has not been found yet, the total number of bones a Mylodon darwinii possessed cannot be quantified.

How did they communicate?

Due to a lack of research and evidence, it is not known how these ground sloths would have communicated with each other.

How big was a Mylodon?

Mylodon had a large body length of around 9.8-13 ft (3-4 m). This was about half the body length of the elephant-sized Megatherium.

How fast could a Mylodon move?

Though it is not known exactly how fast or slow these creatures could have been, ground sloths are thought to have been slow-moving animals.

How much did a Mylodon weigh?

The weight of this ground sloth would have been in the range of 1.1-2.2 short tons (0.8-1.7 tonnes), which would make them around the same weight as the closely related, megalonyx.

What were the male and female names of the species?

There were no sex-specific names for the male and female ground sloths.

What would you call a baby Mylodon?

No special name has been given to a baby Mylodon darwinii.

What did they eat?

The diet of these animals was herbivorous. Analyses of the dung remains which were recovered from many sites, including the Mylodon Cave, suggested that the Mylodon would have fed on sweet and sour grasses, as well as herbaceous plants.

There were quite a few animals that lived in the Pleistocene epoch that would have preyed upon these sloths. These include pumas, jaguars, saber-toothed tigers, and some extinct species of bears.

How aggressive were they?

It is not likely that these animals would have been aggressive and would have only attacked if disturbed.

Did you know...

When Charles Darwin discovered these fossil mammals, the remains of its skeleton and dung were so well-preserved that it was assumed that they belonged to an animal that had only recently died, and others of the same kind could be alive then too.

Thus, a lot of expeditions were arranged to find a living example, but it was later realized that the fossils were almost 10,000 years old!

Where did Darwin find the giant ground sloth?

Charles Darwin discovered this giant mammal rocky gravel cliff in the Buenos Aires Province of Argentina during a survey expedition with the HMS Beagle in the 1800s. This discovery made him curious about the evolution of sloths and thus, leading to his theory of evolution.

These fossils collected by him are currently preserved in the Natural History Museum in London.

Did sloths use to be fast?

No, sloths have always been very slow, even when they were previously car-sized giants. This is because these mammals have an extremely slow metabolic rate and they conserve a lot of energy by moving slowly.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly prehistoric animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these Hipparion facts and Diprotodon facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Mylodon coloring pages.


Main image by Concavenator.

Second image by Reinhardt, J. T.

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Written by Oluniyi Akande

Doctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

Oluniyi Akande picture

Oluniyi AkandeDoctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

With an accomplished background as a Veterinarian, SEO content writer, and public speaker, Oluniyi brings a wealth of skills and experience to his work. Holding a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan, he provides exceptional consulting services to pet owners, animal farms, and agricultural establishments. Oluniyi's impressive writing career spans over five years, during which he has produced over 5000 high-quality short- and long-form pieces of content. His versatility shines through as he tackles a diverse array of topics, including pets, real estate, sports, games, technology, landscaping, healthcare, cosmetics, personal loans, debt management, construction, and agriculture.

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