Episode 33 – The Story of the Sloth

Past Time
Past Time
Episode 33 - The Story of the Sloth


After three and a half months of discovering how insanely busy a museum curator can be, I (Adam) am back to past times with a brand new episode of Past Time! Join me on a journey back to the Smithsonian Institution to learn about the whole history of sloths. We’ll also meet RYAN HAUPT, an ally in sloth paleontology and science podcasting!

Ryan Haupt: Master of Sloth

A Ph. D. candidate at the University of Wyoming, a fellow with the Geological Society of America, a researcher at the Smithsonian Institution, AND a podcaster…Ryan Haupt is a busy guy. His research focuses on the roles of sloths in both ancient and modern ecosystems. Balancing studies of sloth biology in the jungles of Panama and laboratory work on ground sloth bones and teeth, Ryan was the perfect guest to teach us in this episode of Past Time. He might even throw in some sloth coprolites (fossil feces) for the heck of it! Together, Ryan and I explore over thirty million years of sloth history and HOW we know what we know about extinct sloth species.

Past Time guest Ryan Haupt holds a sloth in a Panama jungle
Ryan studied sloths in the jungles of Panama. This photo shows him holding a mother sloth complete with a baby gripping her chest!

Science…Sort Of

Ryan helps lead the team on the popular science podcast Science…Sort Of! He is one a huge team of ‘paleo-pals’ that produce the series, which focuses on scientists from all fields: from physics to chemistry to geology to biology! Science…Sort Of presents scientific ideas to a broad audience in a free-form conversational format. The series has featured noted science communicators like astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, science writer Carl Zimmer, and yours truly! But Ryan and his friends what scientists of all backgrounds on the podcast, to get their stories out to the largest possible audience!


Science…Sort of.

Sloth Conservation and Research

    • Check out the Sloth Conservation Foundation. Ryan is a member of the board for the foundation.
    • Visit your closest museum. If you are in North OR South America, it almost certainly has some fossils of a ground sloth!
Ground sloth skeletons on display at the American Museum of Natural History.
The sloth display at the Hall of Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History includes several giant ground sloths! Photograph by Wikimedia user Dallas Krentzel (CC License 2.0).

Click here for a classic Past Time episode featuring Thalassocnus, the sloths that swam in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Peru. For the episode field guide, click here.


  • To check out the giant ground sloth model that gave its likeness to our cover image, visit the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville, Virginia.
  • Jungle background image from Wikimedia user Dirk Vander Made (Creative Commons 1.0 license).

Filed under: Cenozoic, Dinosaurs, Ecology, Mammals, North America, Paleontologists, South America, conservation, dinosaur, ecosystem, mammal, paleontologist, sloth, sloths

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> 

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to the Past Time Podcast on iTunes

Follow Us

Dig Us On Twitter