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Monday, May 27, 2013

really cool nature: sloth. {nsm}

Our question for today is, are sloths, as their name implies, really slothful?
I'll let you decide for yourself. Let me know what you think in the comments, if you feel so inclined! :)


These little guys are absolutely fascinating. The way they move, the way they live, their seemingly bemused expression... I like them. We've run into a few on occasion, though surprisingly, we've never seen any in captivity here. Either they were 'what's for dinner' in one of the villages Micah visits (I know... sad), or we happened to see one in the low bushes or trees on the side of the road (or on the side of the boat, in the case of the video above). I think they're otherwise kinda hard to spot when we're out and about in the really tall trees, but honestly, I haven't actually purposefully tried to look.

The most interesting bits from personal experience are: 
They have a very strong grip. Once they grab onto a branch, it's difficult to deter them.
They can swim! Who'd a thought it?
They move more quickly than rumor would have it.
Their claws LOOK dangerous, but they are seldom aggressive.

Basic facts & myth debunkers:
While it has been rumored that sloths move so slow that moss grows on their hair, this is not at all true. Sloths do not always move slowly. But their movements certainly do look almost mechanical (see linked video below). While normally, their moves seem measured and certainly unhurried, they have been known to move very quickly if defending their territory (males) or their young (females). All the sloths we've seen personally have not been all that slow. Think ground to tall tree top in 2 minutes or less.

One thing's certain, these strange creatures are utterly un-slothful in their bathroom habits. Matter of fact, they make their way all the way down from their tree lodgings at least once a week to go number two. Not only that, but when they get to ground level, they actually dig a hole with their stumpy little tails and bury their excrement. Now, I know that's the kind of thing you've always wanted to know... You are so very welcome. :) It is interesting, though, isn't it??

The greenish hue that some sloths take on is actually from algae, NOT moss. But along with the algae, scientists have found all sorts of other yummies in hanging out in their hair, read the scientific paper to find out what those things are.

Sloths usually have a favorite tree (a modal tree), but may roam about between 10-40 trees. They are said to consume about 10% of the trees' leaf/bud/blossom output. But, thankfully they are good stewards, taking their ecological responsibility seriously and are efficient fertilizers (remember how they use the bathroom?). I found thhe author's viewpoint in one of my books, though not intended to be, almost humorous on this point:
"This scenario may be pure wishful thinking on our part; there may be a more parsimonious explanation for the hygienic ways of the sloth. But we like to believe that in the arduous, dangerous descent of the sloth there is a metaphor, a message urging humans to show a similar regard for conserving the fertility of the tropical rain forest."
Adrian Forsyth and Kenneth Miyata, in
Tropical Nature, Life and Death in the Rain Forests of Central and South America
Metaphor or no metaphor, as people who appreciate God's generous gift of Creation, home to innumerable incredible animals like the sloth, we ought to be conscious of our responsibility to be good stewards of it. The same goes for every other gift we're given, right? And, why not take the sloth as an example? For this reason, I resolve to take my compost pile more seriously from now on. :) I think I shall even christen it the sloth pile.

Helpful links:
Do you find sloths fascinating? You are not alone because, "Scientists are fascinated by sloths" and have been for good reason. Read the article full of randomly awesome slothful tidbits here.

Visit a sloth sanctuary! - VERY fun to read through the posts. :)

Watch a great video showing very un-slothful sloths' movements.

Read ARKive's data on the type of sloths we see most frequently near Tarapoto, Peru:

GenusBradypus (1)

Can you spot the sloth in the trees?!

...and the differences!! ;)

Color in your own sloth!! (right click and save image as)

For more really cool nature posts, see the linky below!

We're accumulating posts for sharing our nature studies in May... Won't you add yours to the list?
Please feel free to share the following image in your post inviting your readers to come on over and join us, too! The more the merrier!! :)


1 comment:

Shirley Ann said...

I absolutely love the Sloth Amy! I think they are just so SO cute! Thanks for sharing a bit more about this fascinating creature :o)

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