Here Are 6 Intriguing Sloth Facts
6 INTRIGUING SLOTH FACTS – The incredible revelations of these six sloth facts might just ignite an irresistible urge within you, compelling you to promptly make your way to the nearest sloth sanctuary.
Between their calm movements and perpetual smiles, fostering an affection for sloths becomes quite inevitable. Nestled high up in the trees of Central and South America, both two- and three-toed sloths have attracted so much adoration that some individuals are moved to tears at the mere sight of them.
Despite their preference for keeping their distance from humans, there is still much to unravel about these creatures. Nevertheless, what we do know is undeniably fascinating. After all, how many animals harbor miniature ecosystems in their fur and contribute to the survival of avocados? These six insights into sloths are sure to prompt you to seek out your nearest sloth sanctuary.
Sloths Navigate Mostly By Touch
Their limited eyesight and hearing lead sloths to rely predominantly on touch, utilizing their impressive spatial memory. Their keen sense of smell assists in locating food. Particularly, their vision is impaired as they suffer from monochromacy, making them colorblind and mostly blind in dim light, and completely blind in bright light. Three-toed sloths, for instance, can only see up to 5 feet in front of them.
For Tree-Dwelling Animals, They Have a Terrible Sense of Balance
Despite inhabiting lofty tree canopies, sloths have little need for balancing skills. They firmly grasp onto trees, allowing them to doze off while suspended, and move at a sluggish pace. Over time, the balancing adaptations that aid other tree-dwelling mammals have diminished in sloths. When they come down to the ground, usually for their weekly bathroom trips, they struggle to move around gracefully.
Sloths Are Weirdly Good Swimmers
While their physiology and senses are finely tuned for hanging from trees and slow movement within the canopy, sloths surprisingly possess adept swimming abilities. They can move three times faster in water than they do in trees, owing to the gas in their stomachs, which provides buoyancy, enabling them to effortlessly paddle across even wide rivers in the Amazon.
The Three-Toed Pygmy Sloth Is Critically Endangered
The three-toed pygmy sloth, the smallest in both size and population, is critically endangered, facing an extremely high risk of extinction. Identified as a distinct species in 2001, they evolved separately on the island of Escudo de Veraguas, which became isolated from mainland Panama around 9,000 years ago. Researchers still lack substantial knowledge about their diet, habitat, or population, estimating it to be between 500 and 1,500.
Sloth Fur Contains an Entire Ecosystem
Each strand of sloth fur contains microcracks, fostering the growth of algae and fungi, some of which are exclusive to sloths due to their leisurely pace. This algae turns their fur green, providing an extra layer of camouflage during rainy seasons. Numerous distinct species of moths also reside in sloth fur, relying on the sloths for survival. When sloths descend to the forest floor for their weekly bathroom break, moths lay eggs in the dung, which then hatch and return to the sloth’s fur. Upon the insects’ decomposition, the algae is further fertilized, creating additional camouflage and possibly a nutritious treat for grooming sloths.
Despite its unappealing appearance, this untidy fur may conceal medicinal marvels, thanks to unique fungi found exclusively on sloths. Researchers have identified at least 28 different strains on a three-toed sloth, some of which exhibit potential in treating diseases, including breast cancer.
Elephant-sized sloths Used to Roam All of North America
Though sloths may seem elusive now, they once thrived across North America, with some reaching sizes comparable to elephants. These creatures, known as large clawed ground sloths and Shasta ground sloths, were widespread during the late ice age. One fossil was even discovered more than 8,000 feet above sea level in the Rocky Mountains.
The Megalonyx, a large clawed ground sloth, measured approximately 10 feet in length and weighed around 2,200 pounds, while the Shasta ground sloth, slightly smaller, occupied a narrower habitat but still boasted a substantial size of 9 feet in length and up to 550 pounds. The existence of avocados can be partly attributed to these extinct giant sloths, as they were among the few large mammals capable of ingesting whole avocado pits and dispersing them to new locations. However, human cultivation eventually took over the propagation of avocados. In a previous article, we featured 6 important questions about cats.