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10 Fascinating Facts About Sloths

Alongside their cute appearance and importance within a healthy ecosystem, sloths really are fascinating creatures. Check out our top 10 interesting facts about sloths.

 

1. Without sloths there would be no avocados

Giant sloth skeleton

The sloths we know and love today are known as tree sloths (spending most of their life in the trees), and they evolved from giant ground sloths. These giant creatures were basically GIANT sloths (as the name suggests), with more than 80 different types and measuring over six meters in height! The now extinct giant ground sloths were some of the only mammals that had a digestive system large enough to process the huge avocado seeds in one piece. They feasted on these (alongside other fruits and plants), and dispersed the seeds far and wide - allowing there to be avocados in present day.

 

2. They are very picky when it comes to pooping and excrete a third of their body weight in one go

Due to their very slow lifestyle, sloths only normally need to poop once a week, but they don't do this whilst hanging upside down - that is far to simple for a sloth! Instead, sloths in the wild make a long and slow journey down to the ground by the bottom of the same tree, where they dig a small hole to poop in. This weird and wacky behaviour is still one of the biggest mysteries surrounding sloths but it is thought to be linked to communication and reproduction.

 

3. They are faster in water than on land

Although they spend most of their life at a slower pace in the trees, sloths are surprisingly strong swimmers! Remarkably they can swim around three times faster than they travel on land, allowing them to travel larger distances in a shorter amount of time when searching for potential mating partners or new territory.

 

4. It takes a sloth 30 days to digest one leaf

sloth eating leaves

Sloths have the lowest metabolic rate of any mammal, meaning it takes them a long time to digest anything they eat. They have an incredible four-chambered stomach that is always kept full, and this can account for up to 30% of their entire body mass. Furthermore, two-fingered sloths, have 46 ribs (23 pairs) that support this large stomach which is more than any other mammal!

 

5. Sloths are three times stronger than us

sloth hanging upside down

They really do have super strength! Even though they have 30% less muscle mass than mammals of a similar size, they are three times stronger than humans and from the day they are born, sloths are able to lift their entire bodyweight upwards with just one arm. This is all thanks to their highly specialised muscle arrangements and specialised tendons, allowing them to hang effortlessly without wasting any energy because they can lock their hands and feet into place (as seen in our sloth necklace)! The ability to hold onto tree branches with such skill means they can sleep upside down without the risk of falling out the tree, they have even been found upside down after death!

 

6. Their fur is its own living and breathing microcosm

wet sloth in tree

Sloths fur is something truly special! The cracks within it allow many species of algae and fungi to grow, making them appear green and allowing them to camouflage. Particular species of fungi living within sloth fur have been found to be active against certain strains of bacteria, cancer, and parasites! Alongside this, there is a species of moth (known as the 'sloth moth') that can only be found in sloth fur and one sloth can house up to 950 invertebrates at once.

 

7. Sloths can fall 100 feet without injury

Thankfully they are anatomically designed to fall out of trees and on average an individual will fall out of a tree once a week for its entire life. They are able to fall around 100 feet (the height of twelve double-decker buses) without injury, pretty remarkable right! The most common cause of a sloth falling is when males fight for a female for mating, and the winner will successfully knock their opponent out the tree.

 

8. Their lifespan is quite a mystery

baby sloth in tree

Sloths are very difficult to study in the wild, and because of this no one has ever managed to follow a sloth from birth to death, meaning it is virtually impossible to guess an accurate lifespan. All we can base our knowledge on is data from sloths kept in captivity, and the oldest known sloth in the world turned 50 years old from a zoo in Germany. We know that sloths do not always do well outside their natural environment, so the lifespan of wild sloths could possibly be a lot longer than this!

 

9. Sloths are completely blind in bright daylight

They have a rare condition called rod monochromacy, which means they completely lack any cone cells within their eyes. This means they are colour-blind, can only see very poorly in dim light, and are completely blind in bright daylight. Thankfully, they have an incredible sense of smell and great spatial memory to compensate for this weakened sense. It is another reason why it is far better for them to travel at a slower, safer pace!