Cambodia Mylodon Stamp

Mapinguari and Giant Ground Sloth Stamps



The deep Amazon jungle of Brazil provides the backdrop for tales of the Mapinguari, a large nocturnal animal with a frightful screaming cry. Locals describe the Mapinguari as about two meters in height when standing on its hind legs. It is covered in red hair and emits a foul odor. Its feet are turned backwards and its claws are capable of ripping apart the palm trees upon which it feeds.

Ornithologist David Oren believes the Mapinguari is real. He has searched for it for twenty years. Oren suggests the Mapinguari is a surviving ground sloth, similar to the (presumably extinct) Mylodon . While the smaller tree sloths still exist, ground sloths are generally assumed to have died out around ten thousand years ago. So far no tangible evidence of the Mapinguari has survived close scrutiny.

Oren is not the first to suggest that giant ground sloths still exist. In the 1890s Ramon Lista, an Argentinian explorer, encountered a large unknown animal while hunting in Patagonia. Lista tried to shoot the animal but bullets apparently had no effect. Paleontologist Florentino Ameghino heard Lista's story. He was already familiar with descriptions of such a creature reported by Native Americans in Patagonia. They reported that arrows penetrated the creature's skin only with difficulty. Ameghino posited the creature might be a surviving ground sloth. Preserved skin samples from prehistoric ground sloths showed hard dermal ossicles that would have protected against prehistoric predators and, possibly, arrows and bullets as well. Ameghino named the purported modern ground sloth Meomylodon listai in Lista's honor.

Possibly the Mapinguari, if it exists, is not a giant ground sloth but an unknown large species of anteater. Anteaters and sloths are related animals. The well-known giant anteater Myrmecophaga tridactyla can reach a length of two meters and weigh nearly 40 kilograms. An anteater twice this size might be a candidate for Mapinguari.

Should the Mapinguari turn out to be a giant ground sloth it would not be the first such presumably extinct ice-age mammal to be found still alive in South America. In the early 1970s Ralph M. Wetzel and co-workers from the University of Connecticut discovered living specimens of the Chacoan Peccary, which he named Catagonus wagneri. Peccaries are close relatives of pigs and boars. Prior to Wetzel's find this type of peccary was known only from fossils and had been thought to have died out ten thousand years ago. Wetzel found the living specimens in Patagonia after hearing native stories. The natives called it the tagua. The Chacoan Peccary is the largest of the three known living species of peccary. There are significant differences in the chromosome numbers of the Chacoan peccary and the other two species, indicating they are not closely related. Very little is yet known of the Chacoan peccary's life cycle. It is considered to be an endangered species.

See the Mapinguari and Giant Ground Sloth section of my cryptozoology links page for more sites offering information about these animals.

Selected Giant Ground Sloth Stamps
Argentina Megatherium Stamp
Argentina

Issued 2001

Megatherium was a giant ground sloth which reached nearly the size of an elephant, and therefore was much larger than the reported size of the Mapinguari. Megatherium roamed South America and southern North America. This stamp is part of a set of four showing prehistoric animals of the the Cenozoic era in Argentina. You can see the other stamps in a block of four. You can also view the official first day cover with the four stamps.

Cambodia Mylodon Stamp
Cambodia

Scott # 1361
Issued 1994

Mylodon was a giant ground sloth whose reconstructed appearance resembles that of the Mapinguari. This stamp is part of a set of five showing prehistoric animals.

Guyana

Scott # 2378
Issued 1991

Mylodon was a giant ground sloth whose reconstructed appearance resembles that of the Mapinguari. This souvenir sheet of twenty prehistoric animals includes one depicting Mylodon.

St. Vincent and Grenadines Giant Ground Sloth Stamp
St. Vincent and Grenadines

Issued 1999

The giant ground sloth appears as one panel on a souvenir sheet of twelve depicting prehistoric animals of the world.




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Last modified by pib on July 6, 2003.