Walk Like a Sloth–lesson 4: the claw

Introduction to Walk Like a Sloth: lessons in ground sloth locomotion

compassGetting Oriented

The claw is from the middle toe of the left foot.  It’s the largest of all of the claws.  In life the bony core would have been covered with a toenail growing out of the pocket or sheath at the wide end. The nail probably didn’t extend far beyond the tip.  Sloth claws didn’t retract like a cat’s so a long nail would get in the way of planting the foot down flat and would have abraded quickly. Half of the nail sheath is missing from the specimen (broken off after burial) but the accident reveals the impressions left by the major blood vessels feeding the nail and penetrating into the interior through foramina (holes).  The ventral tuberosity would have supported a tough pad of tissue on which the sloths walked, lifting the tip of the claw slightly off the ground. Continue reading