Depictions of the mapinguari vary. Sometimes it is described as a hairy humanoid cyclops. Other people claim that it is based on a cultural memory of the giant ground sloth, a long-extinct animal that it is said to resemble. The creature is often said to have a gaping mouth on its abdomen.
According to Felipe Ferreira Vander Velden, its name is a contraction of the Tupi-Guarani words "mbaé", "pi", and "guari", meaning "a thing that has a bent [or] crooked foot [or] paw". Other names which have been said to apply to the same being include the Karitiana kida harara, and the Machiguenga segamai.
- Rohter, Larry (2007-07-08). "A Huge Amazon Monster Is Only a Myth. Or Is It?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020-04-12.
- Felipe Ferreira Vander Velden "Sobre caes e indios: domesticidade, classificacao zoologica e relacao humano-animal entre os Karitiana", Revista de Antropología 15 (2009) p. 125-143
- Oren, David C. "Does the Endangered Xenarthran Fauna of Amazonia Include Remnant Ground Sloths?", Edentata (June 2001) p. 2-5
- Martin, Paul S.. 2007. Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520252431
- Shepard, G. H. 2002. "Primates and the Matsigenka" in Agustín Fuentes & Linda D. Wolfe. Primates Face to Face: The Conservation Implications of Human-nonhuman Primate Interconnections. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781139441476