Sloth Brain – Let’s Take A Look At What’s Inside

As I have been researching and writing articles on this website, I have come across a number of comments regarding sloths and how intelligent they are (or how unintelligent some people think that sloths are). In this article, I am going to discuss the sloth brain in a bit more detail as I attempt to discover just how intelligent they actually are.

I will go about writing this article in the following manner: first, I will present some of the comments that I have come across regarding sloths and their intelligence; next, I will discuss some information about the brains of sloths; and finally, I will provide a list of some of the most intelligent animals that there are. By the end of this article, I hope that you will have learned something new and enjoyed the read.

 

Some Uneducated Comments

As the owner of allaboutsloths.com, I do some research to present information in the articles that I write. At various times while doing this research, I have come across some comments that others have made regarding sloths. While so many people love sloths like I do, there are still some people out there that do not have nice things to say about them. Some examples include the following, which were said about sloths in the past:

  • “The sloth is the stupidest animal that can be found in the world, and is so awkward and slow in movement that it would require a whole day to go fifty paces.” Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés (Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo), Spanish historian
  • “My absolute favourite piece of information is the fact that young sloths are so inept that they frequently grab their own arms and legs instead of tree limbs, and fall out of trees.” Douglas Adams, Author of The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time
  • “Slowness, habitual pain, and stupidity are the results of this strange and bungled conformation. These sloths are the lowest form of existence. One more defect would have made their lives impossible.” Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, French naturalist

For a few more sloth quotes, check out my article titled, “Sloth Quotes – What Others Have Said“.

 

How True Are These Comments?

First and foremost, sloths most definitely are not stupid. They move slowly intentionally, strategically, and with purpose. It is a matter of survival for them and moving slowly helps them survive. They have been on this planet in one form of species or another for over 35 million years, so their survival tactics seem to be working quite well for them. And no, sloths do not frequently grab their own arms and legs instead of tree limbs! Some examples of why sloths move slowly include the following:

  • The main predators of sloths hunt prey visually so by moving slowly, sloths are able to improve their chances of not being spotted.
  • Sloths have terrible eyesight so moving slowly keeps them safer in their travels when going from one place to another (those places are usually in the trees).
  • With a low caloric intake and slow metabolism, sloths are able to efficiently conserve that limited store of energy by moving slowly.

For more information about why sloths move slowly and how slowly they actually do move, check out my articles titled, “Why Do Sloths Move Slowly? It’s About Survival” and “How Slow Are Sloths? Let’s Take A Look At This…..Slowly!“.

 

The Sloth Brain – Let’s Take A Look Inside

From a purely biological perspective, the brain of a sloth is relatively small. However, that does not necessarily mean that they are unintelligent (Albert Einstein had a brain that was relatively small, too, and look how incredibly smart he was). According to The Sloth Conservation Foundation, “The brains of sloths might be small but they are very much focused on the specific skills that they need for survival. For example, the section of the brain that controls forelimb movement is well developed for careful climbing, and the sloths spatial memory is particularly impressive… They navigate around their home ranges using their memory and sense of smell!”.

 

The Brainiacs Of The Animal Kingdom

Animals are so much smarter than so many people give them credit for. I have seen a number of videos and heard many stories about how smart animals are. I am particularly fascinated by animals that save others (animals and humans) from danger. For some amazing animal rescue stories (including stories of animals rescuing other animals, plus one story of an animal rescuing a human), check out my article titled, “Happy Animal Rescue Stories – Some Good News (For A Change)“.

As smart as animals are in general, there are those that are at the “top of their class”. The smartest of the smart. In no particular order (other than alphabetic), here are some of those ultrasmart animals:

  • Chimpanzees – chimpanzees are a very intelligent animal. Britannica states that “Chimpanzees are highly intelligent and are able to solve many kinds of problems posed to them by human trainers and experimenters. A number of researchers have taught chimpanzees to use sign language or languages based on the display of tokens or pictorial symbols.”
  • Dogs – having a Golden Retriever as a family pet in my younger years, I know firsthand how smart they are. According to Vox, “…a range of experiments have suggested that dogs are capable of surprisingly complex feats of social intelligence and emotional sensitivity.”
  • Dolphins – according to Treehugger, “Dolphins are well-documented as intelligent animals. They can recognize themselves in a mirror and communicate with each other. Their large brain is structured for awareness and emotion, and dolphin brains are even more structurally complex than those of humans.”
  • Elephants – there is a saying that goes, “An elephant never forgets”. While “never” is quite the word to use (and obviously an exaggeration), it is true that elephants have incredible memories. I have seen many examples of this while doing my research for this article. One example is provided by Independent, which states that “It is not easy to measure with precision the memory span of an elephant; many working elephants can learn and remember a large number of commands. They also appear to recognise many humans, as well as individuals of their own species – even when separated from them for decades.”

While doing my research for this article, I can’t say that I was surprised to see the four animals listed above being recognized as very smart ones. I did, however, come across several other animals that I did not realize were so smart, some of which include bees, crows, goats, raccoons, and squirrels.

Additionally, I came across this heart-warming video, which indicates yet again how smart animals are (a lion, in this particular case). This video was posted by BBC News on March 19, 2015.

 

The End Of This Analysis

After discussing the sloth brain in this article, it is very clear that sloths are far more intelligent than so many people give them credit for (this goes for all animals in general, too). I wrote this article by presenting some of the (inaccurate) comments that I have come across regarding sloths and their intelligence, by discussing some information about the brains of sloths, and by providing a list of some of the most intelligent animals that there are.

I truly hope that you found this article enjoyable and informative. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below and I will be sure to reply.

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4 comments

  • Very interesting indeed. I’ve never really studied sloths so all the information you provide here is new and intriguing for me. I love how you use facts to discredit some misinformation about sloths. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a stupid animal. They all excel at different things and have found a way to survive millions of years thanks to their unique skills. Thanks to the information you provide here, I will look at sloths in a different way from now on. Great article!

    • Michael Christmann says:

      It is also my opinion that there is no such thing as a stupid animal.  I love your thoughts regarding this, as I totally agree with you.

      I’m glad you enjoyed my article.  Thank you so much for taking the time to comment on it!

  • This is an interesting article. At first, I also think a Sloth as a cute but somewhat lazy animal. However, seeing that they actually have high intelligence is a nice discovery. You also tell other interesting facts about how they choose to move slowly, and it seems they’re actually a very good animal in the wildlife. I hope more people can see how good a sloth is and we can actually learn something from them.

    • Michael Christmann says:

      I’m so glad that you found my article interesting.  I agree with you that we can learn so much from sloths.

      Thank you for leaving your comments.  I appreciate you taking the time to do that.  🙂

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