Sloths first appeared in South America during the Oligocene about 35 MYA. The first sloths were small, mostly arboreal animals. Ground sloths first occurred about 30 MYA. Sloths are omnivores – they will eat lizards, insects and carrion; but, their diet consists primarily of leaves, buds and tender shoots . These strange creatures have a slow acting multi-compartmented stomach, which when full can hold up to two thirds of their entire body weight, and take a month to digest. Their claws are their only natural defense.
Giant ground sloths had enormous claws measuring up to 18 inches long without the keratin sheath, which would have extended another 6 inches, making their claws approximately two feet long. The giant ground sloth reached a length of more than 20 feet, and the bulk of a bull elephant.
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