Research ArticlePALEONTOLOGY

A year in the life of a giant ground sloth during the Last Glacial Maximum in Belize

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Science Advances  27 Feb 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 2, eaau1200
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau1200

Abstract

Stable isotope analysis of the first fossilized Eremotherium laurillardi remains from Belize offers valuable insights into the conditions within which this individual lived and its ability to adapt to the increasing aridity of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Cathodoluminescence (CL) microscopy was used to identify chemical alteration of the tooth during fossilization. Results demonstrate that the inner orthodentin resists diagenesis, yielding potentially unaltered values. Using an intensive “vacuum milling” technique, the inner orthodentin produced an accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) date of 26,975 ± 120 calibrated years before the present. The stable carbon and oxygen isotope analysis of this layer shows that the tooth recorded two wet seasons separated by one longer dry season and that this sloth was able to adapt its diet to the marked seasonality of the LGM. This study offers new insights into obtaining reliable isotope data from fossilized remains and suggests that this individual adapted to climate shifts, contributing to the conversation surrounding megafauna extinction.

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