When thinking about sloths, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? That they are slow-moving? That they are lazy? That they are lovable? That they are soooooooo cute? All of the above? Sloths are so many things (lazy is not one of them, by the way) and in this article, I will provide some info on sloths. Hopefully, you will learn a thing or two about them and love them like I do.
In today’s article, I will discuss some sloth history, some sloth characteristics and behaviors, an important date for sloths, and some things to think about. At the end of it all, I hope to have provided you with some interesting information and some enjoyable reading. So, let’s begin…..
From The History Books
Way back when (35 to 40 million years ago), there was only one sloth species. Today, there are six. Although they shared some common characteristics, sloths of the past were also very different in many ways from sloths of the present. Some of the species of sloths that used to exist include:
- The Megatherium sloth – this giant weighed over 5,000 lbs. and was able to stand over 12 feet tall. Plus, it could grow to be 20 feet long. This particular sloth became extinct around 11,000 years ago.
- The Mylodontidae sloth – this sloth was able to use its massive claws (that were also flat and wide) to dig huge holes. 250 foot long holes and 130 foot long tunnels have been discovered to have been dug by this particular sloth.
- The Thalassocnus sloth – this sloth had long, hooked claws (that were also powerful) and used these claws to dig for food in the water, as well as to move itself forward while grabbing onto the ocean floor and fighting the waves. While this sloth lived in the water, it also spent some of its time living on land. This particular sloth became extinct around four million years ago.
- The Diabolotherium sloth – this sloth lived in caves and was very skilled in climbing rocks (some Diabolotherium sloth fossils have been uncovered almost 1,000 feet up in the sides of cliffs). This particular sloth became extinct around 20,000 years ago.
- The Megalonyx sloth (Megalonyx Jeffersonii) – this sloth was named after Thomas Jefferson. It is also the state fossil of West Virginia. This particular sloth went extinct around 11,000 years ago.
- The Sibotherium Ka sloth – on August 25, 2020, this sloth was added to the list of sloths that used to exist.
- The Megalocnus rodens – this sloth was the last ground sloth to go extinct, which happened approximately 4,200 years ago.
For additional information on sloth history, check out my article titled “Evolution Of Sloths – A Bit Of History“.
Living The Sloth Life
Some characteristics and behaviors of sloths are as follows:
- There are six species of sloths divided into two categories: two-toed and three-toed sloths.
- All sloths have three toes, even the two-toed ones (the two-toed ones only have two fingers…..confusing, right?).
- Sloths live in the rainforests of Central and South America, spending most of their lives high in the trees hanging upside-down.
- Sloths are the slowest-moving mammal on the planet. According to Science Kids, “Sloths can move along the ground at just 2 m (6.5 ft) per minute! In the trees they are slightly quicker at 3 m (10 ft) per minute.” World Animal Protection says, “…on the rare occasion that they find themselves at ground level, they crawl only 1 foot (30 cm) per minute.”
- Despite the fact that sloths are incredibly slow-moving animals, they actually know how to swim quite well. In addition, they are able to hold their breath for 40 minutes.
- Sloths eat mostly leaves (which is one of the reasons that they move so slowly…..to save energy because of low caloric intake).
- Sloths have a four-part stomach, which takes a long time to digest what they eat. That leaf that they ate earlier…..it can take up to 30 days to be digested.
- Sloths have terrible eyesight (which is another reason that they move so slowly…..safety when travelling).
- Sloths have slow metabolisms (which is yet another reason that they move so slowly…..to save energy).
- Moving slowly is also strategic for sloths because, by moving slowly, they reduce their likelihood of getting noticed by their main predators (who hunt prey visually).
- Sloths only “do their business” once or twice a week, which they do on the ground, quite often using their “favorite tree”.
- The two closest relatives to sloths are the anteater and the armadillo. Two-toed and three-toed sloths are distant relatives.
- Sloths have algae living on them. It works out well as the algae get water and shelter, and the sloths get valuable camouflage.
- In 2019, a sloth named Paula celebrated her 50th birthday.
- According to The Sloth Conservation Foundation, “…it seems likely that wild sloths may live longer in the wild than they do in captivity.”
A Special Day For A Special Animal
Since 2010, sloths have had their own special day, International Sloth Day, which occurs on October 20 of each year. This day was created by the non-profit foundation AIUNAU. According to AIUNAU, “It was created as necessity to bring the world of sloths and their forest to the citizens/people as a process of sensibilization towards wildlife. It is important to get to know these species so special, these cryptic and shy beings that inspire us and awaken our tender feelings. There is a lot that sloths can teach us – respect, tenderness, joy, pacific share ………… nevertheless, without consideration, in our lack of awareness, we harm them so much and bring their existence in danger of extinction.”
Things To Think About
All sloths are facing numerous threats and according to International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), one species is listed as vulnerable and another species is listed as critically endangered. The main threats that sloths are presented with are deforestation, vehicle collisions, electrocutions, and actions by humans such as poaching and illegal trafficking. Most pet sloths are snatched from their rainforest homes as part of this illegal smuggling, which leads me to the next thing to think about: for so many reasons, sloths do not make good pets. For more information about this, check out my article titled “Can Sloths Be Pets? They Are So Cute, But…..“.
The Wonderful Sloth
In this article, I presented some info on sloths. More specifically, I discussed some sloth history, some sloth characteristics and behaviors, an important date for sloths, and some things to think about. There is one more thing that I would like you to think about and consider: slow down and enjoy life more. Why rush through it when there is so much to see and enjoy? Why not be a little bit more like the sloth?
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you have any comments or questions, I would love to read them. Please feel free to submit them below and I will be sure to get back to you.
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