Ancient Sloth Cave and Torres del Paine National Park

From Punta Arenas, I traveled several hours north to the ancient ground sloth cave: Mylodon, which lived between 1.8 million years 12,000 years ago.  Remains have been found throughout South America, demonstrating Mylodon was adaptable to cold climates.  Though it was mainly vegetarian, Mylodon was also an opportunistic omnivore.  In contrast to some of its relatives, Mylodon did not burrow or climb trees.  To this day, we don’t know what caused Mylodon’s extinction, though almost certainly climate change was a factor (for more on Mylodon, see my previous post from Argentina here).  Discovered in 1895 by German explorer Hermann Eberhard, Mylodon cave contained exceptionally well-preserved remains including pieces of skin, fur and dung.  Chile’s early human settlers also inhabited the cave, where they sought refuge from the weather and other threats.

Approach to the ancient sloth cave
Life-size sloth recreation

An illustration of ancient megafauna, including giant sloth, Macrauchenia and saber-toothed tiger
Smilodon, the saber-toothed tiger
Odd-looking Macrauchenia
Venturing into the sloth cave

Nearby, I visited Torres del Paine National Park.

Majestic to be sure, but climate change poses a dire threat to glaciers.  Moreover, glacial melt could exacerbate dangers beneath the earth’s surface, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.  However, volcanic eruptions are provoked by a vast array of factors, and scientists are trying to determine whether the climate crisis influences such eruptions or frequency of earthquakes. 
A scenic waterfall, but parched trees amidst fires and climate change gives one pause.  Like Mylodon and Darwin’s ancient megafauna, we could be risking extinction given current trends.
More parched landscape and evidence of fires.  In addition, scientists are exploring the possibility that erosion, either due to human activity or warming of rocks due to anthropogenic climate change, could wind up contributing to a “carbon leak” from within rocks themselves.
Burnt vegetation

Leave a comment

Content | Menu | Access panel