Harlan G. Sloth

Who is Harlan G. Sloth?

About 10,000 years ago, a giant ground sloth named Harlan decided to take a nap one winter evening. While he was asleep, a giant ice storm came and trapped him inside the ice that formed around him. For thousands of years, Harlan remained asleep inside the ice block as his home of Big Bone Lick changed dramatically. One day in February of 2015, the ice block around Harlan melted away and he finally woke up from his nap. He has missed a lot in 10,000 years of evolution and history, but he's learning how to adapt with the world today.

In this new world, Harlan is the only giant left of Big Bone Lick. All of his friends are long gone, which made him very sad and lonely. But Harlan isn't a sloth to be kept down for long. He wants to meet new people and make new friends. Harlan wants as many people as possible to come and see his great home of Big Bone Lick. He thinks it's a pretty great place to visit!

What is a Giant Ground Sloth?

Our furry friend here was one of the giants found at Big Bone Lick. Harlan is a Harlan's Ground Sloth, or the scientific name Paramylodon harlani. There were many different types of giant ground sloths during the end of the last ice age, known as the Pleistocene, and Harlan was considered a mid-sized ground sloth. While some ground sloths could grow as large as a bull African elephant, Harlan stood only about 3m (9ft) tall standing on the back legs and weighed up to 1,000kg (2,204lbs). Harlan had very powerful arms and legs, with large claws. The claws were probably used mostly for digging roots and pulling down tree branches to reach leaves. While walking, Harlan would use the instep rather than the flat bottom of his feet.

Why is Harlan Special?

Aside from being the only giant ground sloth around, Harlan is what is called a holotype. A holotype is an example of a species that other species are measured up to. In this case, other ground sloths. The first Paramylodon harlani was identified from bones found at Big Bone Lick. Aside from being big in size, Harlan is a pretty big deal too. As scientists continued to explore Big Bone Lick and other areas with large bone deposits, the holotype was used as the base line for all the bones that were found after. This method helps scientists discover if they've found a new species or more specimens from already identified creatures.

Here's a neat video that explains what a holotype is.