The first discovery of a burrow dug by a giant sloth (an animal that became extinct thousands of years ago) in the Amazon region was made last month by researchers at the Geological Survey of Brazil (CPRM). The cave was not new to local residents in Ponta do Abunã, Rondônia state, but now it has been classified as a “paleo-burrow” (a cave dug by now-extinct animals).
According to geologist Amilcar Adamy, responsible for the discovery, the paleo-burrow is estimated to have existed for at least 10,000 years and is at least 100 meters long. Claw marks suggest it was dug by some large species. “No animals in the current local fauna can excavate like that,” he said.
The site was first visited by the geologists in 2010. According to Adamy, researchers were struck by the cave from the start because of its large, circular/semicircular shape, numerous interconnected tunnels, and length. “You can just stand up there and walk around, no need to bend over except at one point or another,” he said.
With little information to classify the cave, the CPRM team contacted researchers at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) and the State University of São Paulo (UNESP), credited with the discovery of dozens of paleo-burrows in South and Southeast Brazil. With support from the two universities, the team was able to establish that the cave was indeed a paleo-burrow.
The area will be surveyed further to look for new burrows and examine the recent finding more in detail. The study is part of the Geodiversity Project Rondônia, which seeks to identify sites for geotourism that can help foster development in the region. When the cave will be open to visitors is still to be decided.
Translated by Mayra Borges