Some weird Sloth facts : it takes a sloth a month to digest a leaf, about a minute to move 15 feet and about 6 hours to make it to the bathroom and back.
But there’s so much more to them than just nature’s lazy “brother-in-law”.
From their 4 stomachs to their elephant-sized ancestors, here are 10 weird and wonderful facts about the chilled-out Sloth.
Sloth facts 10. My other Sloth’s a Rhino
The chilled-out Sloth may not look very menacing or even dangerous, but if his great-great-great times 10 grandparents caught you calling them lazy, they could make you very sorry.
10,000 years ago in the Pliocene epoch, the giant Megatherium (aka “the giant sloth”) roamed the Earth. They lived in what is now South America and have been described as the same size as the modern rhinoceros before their extinction. They were mainly herbivores, but some paleontologists suggest they could have been “opportunistic carnivores” if they needed to defend themselves from predators or other Megatheriums.
A rhino-sized sloth was likely once part of a supersized meal for ice age humans living just south of the current U.S.-Canadian border, a Manitoba scientist has discovered. Haskel Greenfield noticed “filleting marks” from tools used to separate the meat or tendons from the bone. “They could just be taking a fillet of steak — that’s an early filet mignon,” Greenfield said jokingly.
Sloth facts 9. A sloth Is Legion
Spending most of your time in a tree can take it’s toll, especially if you come from a species that doesn’t consider showering a priority. The sloth’s hairy body has developed a deep groove that serves as the habitat for colonies of symbiotic algae that can turn the sloth’s fur green during the rainy season to help it camouflage with its environment.
Moths have also been found the flurry region where they feed off of the algae and hide from potential predators. A single sloth can carry up to 300 ‘sloth moths’. This type of moth only exists on Sloths.
Luckily, Sloths don’t sweat and have no body odor whatsoever. This makes it harder for predators to find them up in the tree. They camouflage into the tree with their fur and slow movement, they’re quiet unless the female is in the mood and they don’t have a smell. Perfect for staying hidden.
Sloth facts 8. So slow moving moss grows on it
The sloth’s scientific name, Bradypus, is Greek for “slow feet,” which makes sense since it is the world’s slowest animal. It takes about a month to digest a leaf, about a minute to move 15 feet and about 6 hours to make it to the bathroom and back.
It is so slow, in fact, that algae grows on its fur, according to National Geographic. The algae works to the sloth’s advantage, though. The green of the algae helps the sloth blend into the trees, hiding it from predators.
The algae may eventually benefit humans as well as the Sloth. A recent study shows that some species of fungi found in sloth fur could eventually be a potent force against certain parasites, cancers, and bacteria.
Sloth facts 7. 30 days to digest a leaf
The tough leaves in a sloth’s diet are difficult to digest. Sloths have a four-part stomach that slowly digests the leaves with bacteria. The process takes so long that a leaf consumed in August might not be eliminated until October. When a sloth is well fed the contents of its stomach will make up two-thirds of its body weight!
With so much effort exerted to extract a minimum of nutrients, the sloths metabolism is amazingly slow- the slowest in the entire animal kingdom. Their leafy diet isn’t very nutritious, though, so they don’t get much energy from it. This may be why sloths are so slow.
Since it takes so long for a sloth to digest the food it eats, it only goes to the toilet about once a week, usually during the few times it leaves the tree.
Sloth facts 6. Topsy-Turvy
A sloth spends approximately 85% of its life hanging completely upside down, mainly because it requires no effort.
They eat, sleep, mate, and give birth from this position hanging high among the branches. Sloths are the only mammals whose hair grows in the opposite direction from the hair of other mammals.
To accommodate their upsidedown lifestyle, the hair parts in the middle of the belly and grows upward toward the back. The hair on the face points upward, too. This allows water to run off during rainstorms.
The entire sloth is designed for a life of inversion. All of its internal organs, including the heart, liver, spleen and stomach, are rearranged inside its body cavity so nothing gets crushed or obstructed.
Sloth facts . Lounging in the After-Life
It is the construction of the claws and limbs, and a natural retraction of the ligaments that creates the “gripping reflex” of the sloth. They spend so much time in the trees that the tree holds their very life in the balance, sometimes even after they’ve died, according to National Geographic.
Thanks to their claws and muscles, the grip of a sloth is so strong that sometimes when they die, they are found still clinging to the very branch they were lounging from when they were alive.
And this is despite the fact that sloths bodies have only 25 percent muscle mass!
Sloth facts 4. The only thing a Sloth is quick at
There is only one thing that sloths do with amazing speed, and that is sex. Sloth females come into heat about once a year and they let the whole neighborhood know it. Normally a sloth’s voice sounds like the hiss of a deflating balloon ; a lady sloth in heat screams continually until a male finds her or her season passes.
She doesn’t even leave her own tree; she just waits for a suitor to arrive. Then, once a gentleman makes his way up to her, it is basically first come first served without any posturing or foreplay.
In fact, the whole experience from first contact to completion of deed may only be a matter of seconds. In some species the male may stay for a day or two and there may be several matings, but in other species the male departs right after a single 6 second act of intercourse.
Sloth facts 3. Nature’s brother-in-law
Sloths have long had a reputation for just lying around and doing nothing for most of their existence. That’s why they’re called “nature’s brother-in-law.” A recent study, however, negates that long held belief.
The Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany studied the brain wave patterns of three-toed sloths in the Panamanian rainforest instead of those in captivity by fixing a brainwave cap to each of the animals.
The data showed that the wild sloths only slept just over 9 1/2 hours a day and not the 15 to 20 hours on average that science recorded from captive sloths.
Sloth facts 2. All sloths have three-toes, even the “two-toed” ones
The name might sound like a simple way to describe this gentle creature, but even names in nature can be misleading. It’s true that two-toed sloths only have two claws on their forelimbs, but both the two-toed and three-toed sloths have three claws on their hind limbs.
What look like long, sharp claws are actually the sloths’ very elongated finger bones! The fingernail forms a kind of sheath over the bone. That means two-toed sloths have “two fingers,” not “two toes”. So why weren’t they called “two-fingered” and “three-fingered”?
The discrepancy derives from the names in the Spanish translation for the two-toed sloth, “Perezoso de Dos Dedos.” “Dedos” means fingers, which caused some confusion for the English translation.
Sloth facts 1. Pay it forward
There are many sloths, particularly the smaller, less active three-toed species that spend their entire lives in the limbs of just one single large tree.
Once every five to seven days the sloth will climb down to the ground and relieve itself at the base of the tree, burying its feces in basically the same area every time.
The buried stool breaks down quickly and provides excellent fertilizer for the parent tree. It also supplies a breeding ground for moths that live in the animals’ fur and nourishing gardens of algae that supplement the sloths’ diet, new research finds.
The sloth’s behavior of descending a tree to defecate is energetically costly. This risky behavior is the leading cause of mortality for sloths. New research suggests that the symbiotic behavior between moth and Sloth augments the sloth’s limited diet. Sloths with more moths had more inorganic nitrogen to fuel algal growth, which means more food for the sloth!
Siobhan O’Shea is a freelance writer. She writes about pretty much everything but especially likes to bring readers’ attention to new tech, marketing, human behavior, and other oddities.