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Megalonyx Jeffersonii - Jefferson’s Sloth

Posted on Friday, August 17, 2018

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Located in the Thomas Jefferson Garden at Independence National Historical Park, check out the Megalonyx Jeffersonii!  Standing at nearly 10 feet tall, the Megalonyx Jeffersonii sounds and looks like a dinosaur is in the shadows of Independence Hall...

Megalonyx Jeffersonii - Thomas Jefferson's Sloth in the Thomas Jefferson Garden

The Megalonyx Jeffersonii was a creature that lived in the Americas, prior to it becoming extinct during the Ice Age. In a meeting at the American Philosophical Society (APS) in 1797, Thomas Jefferson commented on a remarkable set of bones that had been discovered by miners in what is now West Virginia and that were sent to him for evaluation.  At first, Jefferson thought these bones might be from a large, dangerous and wild animal such as a lion or tiger. However, Caspar Wistar, another member of the APS, was eventually able to identify the creature as the Megalonyx, or “Great Claw”, a gentle giant herbivore. It eventually became known as the Megalonyx Jeffersonii. The original bones are now under the stewardship of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Center City.

Special Limited Time Exhibit - April 13, 2018 to December 30, 2018

If you are interested in finding out more about the Megalonyx Jeffersonii and Thomas Jefferson’s work, be sure to visit the American Philosophical Society Museum. The Megalonyx Jefersonii is part of a special exhibit "In Franklin’s Footsteps: 275 Years at the American Philosophical Society". During the exhibit, which runs from April 13, 2018 to December 30, 2018, the  sculpture of the extinct Megalonyx Jeffersonii will be on display.

How to Get to the Megalonyx Jefersonii

The Megalonyx Jefersonii is conveniently located in the Thomas Jefferson Garden (across the street from Philosophical Hall) just off of 5th Street between Chestnut and Market Streets.  For guests of The Constitutional Walking Tour, we will pass Jefferson's Sloth on our tour, or you can walk on your own a couple of blocks from the National Constitution Center where all of The Constitutional’s tours begin and end.

Additional Information

Museum of the American Philosophical Society
104 S. 5th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
215.440.3400

Note that the Megalonyx Jeffersonii is located in the Thomas Jefferson Garden, which is across the street from Philosophical Hall and in between Signers’ Garden and Library Hall.

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