In the world there are only two skeletons of Megalocnus rodens, the Cuban sloth, and one of them is in our country. You can see it if visit the National Museum of Natural History, located in the antique part of Havana city, just at a flank of the Arms Square.
It deals with one of the most valued pieces of the prestigious scientific-recreational institution and it comes from the fossil material of this specie, that was found in the already remote year 1910 in the Ciego Montero’s Baths, in the central province of Cienfuegos.
The Cuban wise, Doctor Carlos de la Torre y Huerta sent this material to the American Museum of Natural History of New York, United States and at that place two skeletons, practically complete, were armed, one over its four extremities, which is conserved by them, and the Cuba’s one.
The image of our skeleton has travelled the entire world through a post stamp, started on circulation by the Cuban post administration, in August 19th of the year 1958 in homage to the centenary of the Doctor de la Torre’s birth.
In accordance with the researches made by the scientists, the ancestors of the giant sloth arrived to the West Indies from South America 30 millions of years ago. Megalocnus rodens was the biggest autochthonous terrestrial mammal of the Largest of the West Indies. It lived in the entire island and extinguished itself already 4 200 years ago.
With a strong body, it could reach 1,5 meters of length and already 200 kilograms of weight, similar to the dimensions of an adult brown bear. There are evidences, well documented, that it was vegetarian.
The Cuban eagle and the giant owl were among its principal depredators, it is known that its blood used to serve as food to the vampire bat, also extinguished.
Some scientist expose that when the first aboriginals arrived to the Cuban archipelago this great animal already began to extinguished itself; and no few experts consider that it was part of their diet.
By: Lucía Sanz Araujo