Mapinguari Sightings: Evidence the Giant Ground Sloth Is Still Alive?
The legend of the Mapinguari is not only one of the most terrifying monster stories in modern times, but may also be proof than an ancient creature may still roam the jungles of South America. Ground sloths are thought to have gone extinct thousands of years ago. Do stories of the Mapinguari prove the Giant Ground Sloth is still alive?
If so, how can this be? Here’s a look at how some monsters may prove to be all too real, and massive beasts of the past might just come back to life.
The Mapinguari is a nasty and frightening prehistoric monster, one you surely do not want to tangle with should you meet in a dark corner of the forest. Its legend is cemented in South American lore, dating back for generations.
Even as cryptids go the Mapinguari is a strange one, more terrifying than some soggy lake monster and much less congenial than a hairy man-ape. The Mapinguari seems to be ripped straight from a science fiction movie or horror story.
Standing over nine feet tall, with nasty claws, backward-facing feet and an extra mouth on its belly, the terrible beasty would surely send you running for the hills if it didn’t get hold of you first.
Though, if accounts of locals are to be believed, you’d likely smell it coming and have ample chance to get away because the Mapinguari is said to give off a horrific scent.
It’s alleged to be a carnivore, and has been blamed for devouring herds of cattle, but never has there been a documented assault on a human.
Mainstream scientists and researchers say this creepy cryptid probably isn’t real, of course. It’s thought to be a local legend and superstition, perpetuated by the tribes of South America.
But, as legendary creatures go, the Mapinguari is surely one of the most bizarre. Some more creative versions of the animal claim it to have one eye in the center of its head and tough skin that deflects arrows.
No such creature could actually exist, could it?
Is the Mapinguari a Giant Ground Sloth?
Some researchers have an interesting theory about the Mapinguari. Some believe it may actually be a species of giant ground sloth, once thought extinct but now living in the depths of the forest.
Like the Mapinguari, ground sloths were big, smelly and ferocious. Though they did not prey on humans, they certainly had the tools necessary to frighten them, and inflict serious damage should they cross paths. As a slow-moving animal, it needed such defenses to fend off predators like the giant short-faced bear.
The giant ground sloth still living in the form of the Mapinguari might seem like a stretch, but a closer look shows that many of the characteristics certain species of ground sloth exhibit are present in descriptions of the Mapinguari.
Megatherium was a genus of giant ground sloth that went extinct thousands of years ago, but some scientists think it may have existed as recently as the 16th century. That's only a few hundred years ago!
The massive animals walked on all fours but were capable of standing on its hind legs, with its head reaching three meters in height. With its tremendous claws on its hands and feet used for digging and grabbing vegetation, the claws and “backward-facing feet” of the Mapinguari are easily explained.
Even the mouth in the stomach and horrible stench might not be so far-fetched: Sloths have scent glands, so this “stomach” may simply be exactly that. Not to worry though. Ground sloths were vegetarians, so if you’re wandering around the jungles of Brazil you probably have nothing to fear, unless you’re dressed like a plant.
Could this extinct giant sloth and the Mapinguari be one and the same?
The Mapinguari and the Lazarus Taxon
A creature from the past returning to our world is not something all that bizarre and unprecedented. In fact, there is a name for species that go extinct or disappear from the fossil record and then reappear again: Lazarus Taxon.
The Coelacanth is the best-known example of a Lazarus Taxon. This is a six-foot fish that was believed to have gone extinct some sixty-five million years ago, only to be rediscovered back in the 1930s. This gives up pause to wonder what else might be out there, just awaiting rediscovery.
Could a population of Giant Ground Sloths have managed to survive, deep in the dark jungles of South America, undiscovered by modern science for thousands of years? It’s hard to imagine, but jungles do not give up their secrets easily.
Of course in the world of cryptozoology, which presently is where the Mapinguari stands, there are plenty of examples of alleged prehistoric beasts said to still roam our world, from dinosaurs still alive in Africa, to the superstar of the cryptozoology world, Bigfoot himself.
Some researchers believe Bigfoot is the evolved remnants from a massive 10-foot ape species called Gigantopithecus. But this Lazarus thing may not be the only thing Bigfoot and the Mapinguari have in common.
Some researchers think Bigfoot and the Mapinguari are the same creatures.
The Giant Ground Sloth
A Bigfoot Cousin?
Some eyewitness accounts of the Mapinguari liken it more to a Bigfoot-like creature. Bigfoot is known to roam the Pacific Northwest of North America, but there are sightings from all over North America.
Is it realistic to think a Bigfoot population could have made its way to South America?
One of the main hypotheses to explain the presence of a great ape species in North America is Bigfoot-Giganto Theory. This tells us how a large, orangutan-like ape that lived in Asia millions of years ago may have evolved into what we now know as Bigfoot, and crossed the Bering Land Bridge during the last ice age to inhabit North America.
If Bigfoot migrated that far it isn't hard to imagine it may have crossed the isthmus of Panama to inhabit South America. But Bigfoot, at least the version in North America, certainly doesn't have backward-facing feet and a mouth on its stomach.
Certainly, it is possible that both Bigfoot and the Giant Ground Sloth inhabit the jungles of South America, but we have to think these Mapinguari sightings are of something else besides a bipedal man-ape.
Monster, Extinct Sloth, or Something Else?
Cryptids like the Mapinguari, which seem to have roots in some extinct animals, are perhaps the most interesting of all. Even the most devout unbeliever would have to admit there is a possibility, no matter how remote, that an extinct species could still live deep in the jungles of the world. With so much unexplored, Megatherium could still be out there.
There is still always the possibility that the Mapinguari may be a new species altogether, separate from the giant sloth and of a category all its own. In the field of cryptozoology, this is the holy grail. The discovery of a new animal, especially one this bizarre, would send researchers into the jungle of South America in droves, and open doors in many fields.
Though the idea that this cryptid is an ancient giant sloth still living is very intriguing, to date researchers have not been able to track the creature down. Without a specimen, live or dead, it is hard for mainstream science to take the Mapinguari too seriously. Despite local sightings and stories, there is little hard evidence, and the forests of South America don't give up their secrets easily.
Could the mapinguari be a rare giant ground sloth or one of its ancestors, once thought lost to history but very much alive in the deep jungle? Could it be the imagination of locals, tall tells and legends and nothing more? Or, could it be something else?
Until more evidence is found, we will never know for sure.