15 Facts About The Sloth

Who is the slowest animal on Earth? The sloth, of course! This cutie is so slow that thanks to this he became famous all over the world 🙂

Sloth habitat facts

Three-toed sloths live mainly in the rain forests of North and South America, in particular, in Costa Rica. These animals spend most of their lives in trees, almost without moving. Once a week they come down to the ground to move around and leave droppings. They are difficult to detect because of their immobility.

They are lovely but not smart

The skull has two sections, one of which contains a small brain with almost no gyruses. The fact is that the plant-based diet of sloths provides them with only a small amount of energy. The brain consumes a lot of energy, so they kept its activity to a minimum.

Sleeping sloth
Sleeping sloth

Rainforest centenarians

Life in the rain forests is in full swing, and many animals living here have a short life span. However, sloths live up to 10-20 years in the wild, and they can live up to 40 years in captivity. Their slow metabolism also contributes to their longevity. Fish living in the cold northern seas live for a very long time for a similar reason.

Sloth claws facts

These animals have very long claws, they can grow up to 3-4 inches (7,5-10 cm). The claws are very strong and sharp. Sloths use them to hold on tightly to the trees and vines on which they move. They never use them for attack or defense because of their slowness, sloths are completely defenseless against predators.

Sloth bear
A sloth in Costa Rica rainforest

Sloth fur and body facts

They have long and stiff fur that sometimes has a greenish color. This is because algae grow in their fur very well 🙂 This is a mutually beneficial symbiosis because algae get a suitable habitat, and their presence in the fur makes sloths less prominent. Interestingly, the fur is directed towards the spine, unlike all other mammals. An adult specimen usually weighs 9-18 pounds (4-9 kilos).

They are loners

Sloths give birth to one cub, which spends the first 4 months on the mother’s belly. By the age of 2.5, he becomes completely independent. They prefer a solitary lifestyle and rarely encounter each other, but when they meet, they are friendly, and they even tend to feel affection for each other.

Sloth diet facts

These animals aren’t vegetarians. They mostly eat leaves, but they can also eat an insect or a lizard if they have a chance. The leaves are difficult to digest and have very low caloric and nutritional value. The eaten leaves are digested in the stomach of a sloth for about 90 hours! Up to ⅔ of the body weight of a well-fed sloth may fall on food in the stomach!

Sloth facts
Sloth claws are really long

No poison

There is a popular myth that the claws of sloths are supposedly poisonous. That’s not true! But, of course, the wound left by the claws of the sloth must be treated to avoid infection, as is the case with any other animal.

They sleep a lot

Normally, sloths sleep 15-20 hours per day. They save energy and move only when necessary. Because of this, in fact, they got their reputation as the laziest and slowest animal ever. They just can’t afford to spend more energy because of their low-calorie diet.

Sloths swim faster than they walk

Well, they don’t like to do that, but they are capable of swimming when necessary. More than that, sloths swim faster than they move on trees or the ground! They can swim at 2.5 miles per hour speed (4 km/h) but on the ground or in trees their top speed is about 0.15 mph (0.27 km/h). Only in case of a threat, by the way. Normally they are even slower.

The sloth
Sloth in the zoo

Life in trees

Their long claws prevent them from walking on the ground. There are two types of sloths: two-toed and three-toed. However, this can lead to confusion, since both species have three claws, or “toes”, on their hind limbs. In fact, a “two-toed” sloth really should be called a “two-fingered” sloth, since the difference between them can be found in their forelimbs.

Giant predecessors

A modern sloth is usually about the size of a medium-sized dog. But ancient sloths known as Megatheria could grow to the size of an elephant! Most likely, the main reason for the disappearance of these extinct animals was the hunting of primitive people who settled in America about 15,000 years ago.

Sloth metabolism

Sloths have an extremely low metabolic rate, which means they move at a languid, sluggish pace through the trees. On average, sloths travel 123 feet (37.5 m) per day which is less than half the length of a standard football field.

Sloth bear with a cub
A sloth with a cub

What do sloths eat?

Sloths feed mostly on leaves, twigs, and buds. Since the animals have no incisors, they trim the leaves by smacking their hard lips. A low metabolic rate means that sloths can survive on relatively little food; it takes them days to digest what other animals can digest in a matter of hours.

They are not monkeys

With their long arms and shaggy fur, they really resemble monkeys, but in fact, they are related to armadillos and anteaters. Also, don’t confuse them with sloth ears, totally other animals.

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