Two toed Sloth  ()

Don’t sleep on the Two-Toed Sloth!

Sloths are truly some of the most unique creatures we have in the animal kingdom. These interesting mammals are in the order known as Pilosa, which includes sloths and anteaters. Known for being extremely slow and spending most of their time upside down, these creatures truly do have a low metabolism, and are very deliberate in every single movement they make. While they cannot do much on the ground, these arboreal mammals can also swim, and their scruffy coat is home to green algae that has a symbiotic relationship with the sloth.

Can sloths be fast?

While names alone don’t always tell the full story, this is one case where it’s spot on. Sloths truly are slow moving creatures because of their low metabolic rate, and the best way to conserve energy is to make every move count! Their diet doesn’t really help them either – sloths tend to eat leaves from a variety of trees they climb in so they really don’t have to move far to get their food. They are also known to eat things like branches, and fruits…and while these may keep Sloths alive and healthy, without heavy protein or fats they don’t have the excess energy for a lot of movement. However, a sloth is at home when moving upside down, so while they can creep along at extremely slow speeds on the ground, sloths actually can put a little pep in their step when upside down in their treetop homes!

How long can a sloth sleep?

Going right along with being one of the slowest known animals, sloths also love to get their beauty sleep! On average a sloth will sleep 15 to 18 hours a day, which gives them only a few hours a day for foraging through the trees. They try to maintain a somewhat low body temperature, so when they are active and moving about, it’s usually to move into shadier areas and keep cool. In the wild though, some sloths have been observed as spending more time awake and eating, some even sleeping only as much as the average human sleeps per night.

Why do sloths hang upside down?

Aside from their speed (or lack thereof) one of the main noticeable traits of a sloth is the fact that they spend most of the time upside down. Well their slow speed and reason for hanging upside down are actually connected! With such low energy to spare, the best defense mechanism for a sloth isn’t to run away, or try and fight off a predator. Instead, the best defense for a sloth is in keeping hidden from those predators so they don’t even have to interact. From underneath a branch, sloths are much less visible to birds of prey that like to snatch them out of the trees, and it takes virtually no energy for a sloth to keep its claws gripped to a branch – even after being attacked or hit unconscious, a sloth still won’t fall from the tree it’s attached to! This also connects to the symbiotic relationship that sloths have with green algae – the algae is allowed to grow and have a warm place to live in the sloths fur. In return, the green algae helps color the sloth for an extra level of camouflage in the green and brown tree tops.

Would a sloth attack you?

Given everything else we know about sloths, most would assume that they really aren’t the type of animal to attack a human. And that’s the truth – just like with any other predator, a sloth would prefer to stay hidden then have to fight for survival. While they do have strong claws, and hard teeth that can both hurt a human, no sloth attacks have ever been fatal, and are only caused when someone handles or corners a sloth and it brings out their “fight or flight” instinct. Seeing as running away isn’t really an option, the sloth will then try to get you to back away however it can. For the most part though, a sloth will never go out of its way to interact with a human as they really do have to use their energy wisely!

 

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