Nevada State Museum’s sloth skeleton gets a name

Apparently, even news travels slowly in the world of sloth naming.

But what this story lacks in timeliness, it makes up for in cuteness.

Clear back on Saturday, officials at the Nevada State Museum at the Springs Preserve unveiled the winning entry in their contest to name the collection’s giant ice age sloth skeleton.

The name is Molasses. The winner is Caden Burt, a 5-year-old boy with glasses and spiky hair.

Sali Underwood, the museum’s curator of natural history, said the idea came to Caden out of personal experience. That’s how his mom describes him when he’s dragging his feet: slow as molasses.

Caden’s name beat out two other finalists, handpicked by museum staff from a larger pool of entries: Daisy, a play on the fact that the skeleton is from a female Shasta ground sloth that has been pushing up daisies for the better part of 32,000 years; and Primmabella, because the bones were found in a cave near Primm, where the sloth was “on her way to go shopping and get herself a Fossil handbag,” Underwood said.

Molasses was coaxed along to the winner’s circle by members of Caden’s family, who kept dropping by the museum to vote for the boy’s entry. You were allowed cast more than one ballot in the contest, but you had to do so in person, Underwood said.

The Name the Fossil Contest was held to celebrate National Fossil Day on Oct. 16. The museum did the same thing last year for the mammoth mammoth skeleton — now known as Christopher Columbian Mammoth — that greets visitors at the entrance to the main hall of exhibits.

Molasses joined the museum’s collection in 1995, five years after some hikers found it in a cave near Devil Peak, northwest of Primm. Researchers believe the creature most likely fell into the cave and died.

Underwood said the specimen the most complete fossil of an extinct Shasta ground sloth anywhere in the Southwest, with about 60 percent of its bones intact.

The display at the museum is actually a cast of the real fossils, which Caden and his family got to see during a behind-the-scenes tour of the collection that was part of his prize.

He also received a plush sloth doll and a family pass to the museum. His sloth name and his real name now appear on a plaque in front of the skeleton, which stands about 9 feet tall or roughly 5 feet taller than Caden.

If any of this sounds enticing, you better start working on names for a giant sea monster.

Underwood said next year’s contest will focus on the ichthyosaur, the official fossil for a state that will celebrate its 150th birthday one year from Thursday.

The museum has a two-thirds-scale model of the marine reptile, which swam the oceans of what is now central Nevada some 225 million years ago.

As any 5-year-old will tell you, that’s a long time to go without a name.

Contact reporter Henry Brean at or 702-383-0350. You can find him on Twitter at @RefriedBrean.

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