Full Version: Megafauna-palæoburrows in South America
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This one's for the palæontology nerds on here.

A geology professor, Heinrich Frank, found a peculiar hole in Brazil.

[Image: Megatherium_americanum.jpg]

«Local geology doesn’t yield such a sight, so Frank went back a few weeks later and crawled inside. It was a single shaft, about 15 feet long; at its end, while on his back, he found what looked like claw marks all over the ceiling. Unable to identify any natural geological explanation for the cave’s existence, he eventually concluded that it was a “paleoburrow,” dug, he believes, by an extinct species of giant ground sloth.

«“I didn’t know there was such a thing as paleoburrows,” says Frank. “I’m a geologist, a professor, and I’d never even heard of them.»

Now Frank & co have found lots and lots of palæoburrows. And «“[ i ]n these burrows, sometimes you get the feeling that there’s some creature waiting around the next curve – that’s how much it feels like a prehistoric animal den,” he says.»

[Image: paleoburrow-digging.jpg]

There's plenty of unanswered questions here. E.g. «the sheer size of the burrows is something that Frank and his colleagues are still trying to explain. Whether prehistoric sloths or armadillos were responsible, the burrows are far larger than would be necessary to shelter the animals that dug them from predators or the elements.

«The giant armadillo, the largest living member of the family, weighs between 65 and 90 pounds and is found throughout much of South America. Its burrows are only about 16 inches in diameter and up to about 20 feet long.

«“So if a 90-pound animal living today digs a 16-inch by 20-foot borrow, what would dig one five feet wide and 250 feet long?” asks Frank. “There’s no explanation – not predators, not climate, not humidity. I really don’t know.”»

Dating them is also difficult, and the geographic distribution appears to be rather bizarre. It's interesting stuff!