Really slow. So what if evolution had the same mindset, and decided to take its time before getting rid of some prehistoric creatures?
What if the giant sloth was still around? What would it get up to in the 21st century? Could modern-day humans even handle giant sloths? And what does this have to do with my guacamole?
Giant sloths are a lot like their modern-day descendants. They’re slow, harmless, and well, adorable. The key difference is that they are bigger. And I mean a lot bigger. The largest of these tardy titans might reach up to 7 m tall (23 ft) and weighing in at 6.350 kg (7 tons).
Giants sloths evolved in South America about 35 million years ago. And thanks to several specimens we’ve found in good condition, we have a pretty good idea of how they lived their lives. That is, until 11,000 years ago, when they went extinct during the Ice Age.
But what if that wasn’t the story? What if they stuck around?
Well, if they were still alive, they would live in forests or bushy areas found in North and South America. Those forests would be their vegan buffet. The giant sloths were herbivores that could stand up on their hind legs to grasp tree branches with their thick claws and snack on leaves.
Some of them even had tongues similar to giraffes’, and could use it to reach extra tasty leaves. It’s a pretty good skill to have, because these gentle giants would need to eat about 60,000 calories per day.
That’s as much as an African elephant’s daily meal plan. So, it sounds like even in the 21st century, giant sloths have a pretty relaxed lifestyle. But what would it be like for us?
Well, knowing humans, we’d probably give them a job and use them for labor. The giant sloths might be used as transportation, at least until we realized that idea sucks.
Some of the giant sloths were the size of an ox, so they might be able to help us out on farms. By using the old “carrot dangling in front of their face” trick, we could have them plowing fields.
But is anyone really going to invest in a work sloth? I mean, they’re not really known for their speedy work ethic. There’s got to be something else they can do. Well, turns out their biggest contribution is … avocados. Yup, avocados.
People love avocados, but the giant sloth really loves avocados. They would eat about 200 avocados per day! It’s estimated that if 80,000 giant sloths roamed the Earth, they would eat as many avocados each year as the United States.
I know what you’re thinking. How is eating so many avocados a contribution? Well, get this. Have you ever heard of Kopi luwak? It’s the most expensive coffee in the world.
Kopi luwak is made when civet cats eat coffee beans, allowing enzymes to seep into beans, creating more amino acids, and shortening the peptides. This changes the flavor of the coffee.
And then, you know, they poop it out. And people buy it, and think it’s a delicacy. We might be able to do something similar with the avocado pit. Considering that the avocado pit is much larger, we could be looking at a good investment here.
Could guacamole made from the avocado seeds “”deposited”” by a giant sloth become a delicacy?
You could start an gourmet avocado farm, with a bunch of sloths eating and pooping out avocado seeds. It would be a great way to start production, as you wouldn’t be lacking fertilizer. While it would be amazing to have eco-friendly giants helping us with our farms, sadly, it’s only a dream. The giant sloths are long gone. And unless we do some huge genetic experiments, they’re going to stay that way.
But wait a minute. That’s not a bad idea. What if we invested in the technology to give these animals another roll of the dice?
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- “Extinct Giant Ground Sloths”. 2020. slothsanctuary.com.
- “San Diego Natural History Museum Fossil Mysteries Field Guide: Giant Ground Sloth”. Museum, San. 2020. archive.sdnhm.org.
- “Swimming with Giant Sloths”. BRIAN SWITEK, 2014. mentalfloss.com.
- “How Many Calories Should You Eat Per Day To Lose Weight?”. 2020. Healthline.
- “Elephant | San Diego Zoo Animals & Plants”. 2020. animals.sandiegozoo.org.
- “Calories In Avocados And Nutrition Facts”. 2020. fatsecret.com.
- “Giant sloth was vegetarian: Diet of fossil megatherium decoded”. 2020. Sciencedaily.
- “Megatherium Or Extinct Giant Sloth Built Huge Complex Tunnels In Prehistoric Brazil, But Why?”. Olimberio, Regin. 2017. Science Times.