The slowest animal on has a survival strategy that involves taking things as slowly as possible…
They’re famous for being the slowcoaches of the rainforest, but there’s a good reason why sloths like to take their time. Sloths are named after the cardinal sin attributed to idleness and unwillingness to work, so it’s no wonder most people think of these slow-moving South and Central American mammals as being lazy. At first glance, you may agree that sloths aren’t the most industrious animals. They’re usually found inching their way casually through the branches, or hanging in the same spot for hours on end. But rather than laziness, it’s the sloth’s slow metabolism that compels it to act in such a lethargic manner. This arboreal animal’s diet consists mostly of leaves, buds and shoots. These foods only contain a small amount of energy and nutrients, so to make the most of their meagre meals, sloths have evolved a specialised slow-acting stomach, with digestive processes that can take over a month to complete. Consequently, the sloth’s metabolic rate is exceptionally low: half the rate expected for a mammal of its size. With energy being released so slowly, the sloth’s pace of life must be adapted to match, which explains their unhurried behaviour. Although they’re slow, sloths are experts at avoiding danger. Apart from during their weekly toilet visits, where they come down to the ground to relieve themselves, they remain hidden in the trees, away from predators.
Sloths in numbers
They might be a bit dopey looking, but sloths are impressive animals when you consider the wealth of adaptations that help them to survive
Know your sloth
There are six extant species of sloth, each with their own unique evolutionary traits. Here’s how to tell them apart
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