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The Kartchner Caverns Visitor Center offers this life-size model of a 9-foot-tall Shasta Ground Sloth that died in the vast limestone cavern 86,000 years ago. Scientists think ancient hunters exterminated the sloths and many other large animals 11,000 years ago.

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Lost Worlds in the living dark

The lost sloth and the vast silence offer a glimpse of extinction and persistence in Kartchner Caverns

I drop back from my little group of amiable explorers, all the way back to where the state park minder watches me warily lest I extend my hand toward the damp, warm, misshapen tissues of stone, which hunker like goblins along the path.

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