Asynchronous extinction of late Quaternary sloths on continents and islands

David W. Steadman, Paul S. Martin, Ross D.E. MacPhee, A. J.T. Jull, H. Gregory McDonald, Charles A. Woods, Manuel Iturralde-Vinent, Gregory W.L. Hodgins

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183 Scopus citations


Whatever the cause, it is extraordinary that dozens of genera of large mammals became extinct during the late Quaternary throughout the Western Hemisphere, including 90% of the genera of the xenarthran suborder Phyllophaga (sloths). Radiocarbon dates directly on dung, bones, or other tissue of extinct sloths place their "last appearance" datum at ≈11,000 radiocarbon years before present (yr BP) or slightly less in North America, ≈10,500 yr BP in South America, and ≈4,400 yr BP on West Indian islands. This asynchronous situation is not compatible with glacial-interglacial climate change forcing these extinctions, especially given the great elevational, latitudinal, and longitudinal variation of the sloth-bearing continental sites. Instead, the chronology of last appearance of extinct sloths, whether on continents or islands, more closely tracks the first arrival of people.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11763-11768
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number33
StatePublished - Aug 16 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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