Footprints preserve terminal Pleistocene hunt? Human-sloth interactions in North America


Bustos, David
Jakeway, Jackson
Urban, Tommy M.
Holliday, Vance T.
Fenerty, Brendan; Raichlen, David A.; Budka, Marcin; Reynolds, Sally C.; Allen, Bruce D.; Love, David W.; Santucci, Vincent L.; Odess, Daniel; Willey, Patrick. McDonald; H. Gregory, and Bennett; Matthew R.

Predator-prey interactions revealed by vertebrate trace fossils are extremely rare. We present footprint evidence from White Sands National Monument in New Mexico for the association of sloth and human trackways. Geologically, the sloth and human trackways were made contemporaneously, and the sloth trackways show evidence of evasion and defensive behavior when associated with human tracks. Behavioral inferences from these trackways indicate prey selection and suggest that humans were harassing, stalking, and/or hunting the now-extinct giant ground sloth in the terminal Pleistocene.

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Fig. 2 Trackways and prints at WHSA. (A and B) Unexcavated sloth track. The track outlines are only visible during specific moisture conditions. (C) Flailing circle made by a sloth reaching forward with its forelimbs and leaving knuckle and claw impressions. (D) Human unshod right foot, unexcavated, and 30 mm below current surface. (E) Superimposed human and sloth track. (F to H) Unshod human feet. (I) Sloth pes track. (J and K) Human tracks superimposed in sloth tracks, indicating contemporaneity. (L and M) Manus claw impression of a sloth.

Publication Listing

Science Advances 25 Apr 2018: Vol. 4, no. 4, eaar7621 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar7621