I had seen Megatherium before when I visited the dinosaur museum in Paris in 2011, so I was looking forward to seeing Megatherium when I visited the Natural History Museum in London in June. They are really very proud of it and say it has been on display ever since 1850, but they have stuck it in a corner of a corridor away from everywhere else like a third cousin at a wedding reception. But I like that, I think it's good to see it by itself and not get distracted by other exhibits around it.
Here's the whole exhibit:
It's actually made from plaster-casts of two half skeletons, not one whole one, but that's okay because I know how hard it is to find all the bones of an animal that died six months ago let alone 10,000 years ago.
- There is the big, overdeveloped bone at the back of the foot (the talus ? I'm not sure) which supports it from the back.
- There's the short, thick tibia (shin bone) which shows it was a strong but slow moving animal.
- The feet are completely weird. If you were carrying two cars around you'd probably keep your feet flat on the ground. Megatherium had huge claws, so the feet couldn't go flat, the same way that Wolverine from X-Men can't put his hands flat on a table without the claws scratching the table. So it walked on the side of it's feet. This is bonkers for an animal that big. Think of an elephant which has big, wide, flat, feet. Even dogs and cats have evolved a way to retract their claws when walking (cat's don't retract entirely). So at some point a scientist came up with the theory that it walked on the side of its feet, and I bet the other scientists laughed at him. (But he was right, and they found fossilised footprints to prove it )
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