How slow do you have to be, if algae grows on your back? No no, that wasn’t a superlative insult. That’s actually how slow the slowest mammal on earth goes. The sloth. Cute, furry mammals, with long talons, that they primarily use to hang on to trees.
What is a Sloth?
Sloths are very old – they diverged from the rest of their family tree, which includes anteaters and armadillos, around 75-80 million years ago, in South America. Their scientific name Bradypus, means “slow feet” in Greek. Sloths are tree-living mammals, and are generally found in the tall trees of rain forests. They spend practically their entire lives in trees, only coming down for bathroom breaks. And their bathroom breaks occur only about once a week! This is handy because their long claws make them unsuitable for walking around on the ground. And, considering their speed, they would be sitting ducks for predators on the ground!
Sloths are usually as big as a medium-sized dog, and weigh around 15-18 pounds, although, in ancient times, there lived sloths that were as huge as elephants and weighed 3000 pounds!
How long do Sloths live?
They have a short flat head, big eyes, small ears, thick fur, a small or non-existent tail and fairly long legs with long claws. Sloth bodies are only 25 percent muscle, and their fur is just the right place for algae to grow. In fact, many a times, algae grows on sloth fur, which in turn, serves as a camouflage for the sloth. Sloths can live on an average 20 to 30 years in the wild and a bit longer in captivity.
Sloths have long (around 3-4 cm long) claws that they primarily use to hang on to trees and to eat.
7 Interesting Facts About Sloths
- Contrary to popular belief, sloths don’t actually sleep all day long. They’re actually just very very still. This works as a defence mechanism for them, as their lack of movement keeps them hidden from their enemies.
- They aren’t always super slow. On rare occasions, they‘ve been seen moving as fast as cats! These displays of speed, though rare, make one wonder.
- Sloths are never obese. Though lazy as hell, sloth observers say they’ve never seen an obese sloth.
- Hibiscus is chocolate to them! Hibiscus to a sloth is what chocolate is to humans, and they relish them, as we do sweet treats.
- Sloths have difficulty finding mates. This is of course, primarily due to their speed, or lack thereof. Sometimes they move so slow that it takes them a long time to find a mate.
- It can take a sloth up to a month to fully digest a meal! Sloths have a super slow digestive system. And slow as they are, their diet primarily ends up being leaves. Thus, sloths hardly get any energy from their food. This could possibly be one of the major reasons for their slowness.
- Sloths are excellent swimmers.
Aren’t sloths just fascinating? They’re the best example of a living a laid back life.