Sloths are the slowest animal in the animal kingdom, and because of that they have been the brunt of a lot of jokes over the years. But, sloths’ speed (or lack thereof) isn’t out of laziness. You’ll learn why with these 10 sloth facts and where to find them at Busch Gardens Tampa:
There are Two Different Species That Aren’t That Similar
There are two species of two-toed sloths belonging to the Megalonychidae family. The four species of three-toed sloths, on the other hand, are part of the Bradypodidae family. The two groups are only distant relatives and have a few notable differences between them like the fact that three-toed sloths are active in the daytime and two-toed sloths are nocturnal. Three-toed sloths are also smaller and slower.
They Don’t Have Great Eyesight
A mama three-toed sloth can't see her own baby from 5 feet away. Three-toed sloths are born without cone cells in their eyes, which are needed to detect colors. As a result, they see things in black and white, and in poorer resolution. They also have a hard time handling bright lights.
They Are Good Swimmers
Despite being slow on land, sloths are actually good swimmers. Their long front arms make them skillful swimmers, and they can hold their breath underwater for up to 40 minutes. Sometimes they will hop in a body of water to get where they need to go faster.
Their Slowness Has Kept Them Alive
We all know sloths are slow. Their reaction time is about a quarter as fast as a human's, and they move at a pace of 6 to 8 feet per minute. But their slowness is why they have survived. Sloths live off of leaves, and it can take up to a month for their four-part stomachs to digest a single meal. The leafy greens aren't very nutritious, so they have to conserve as much energy as possible to survive, which means moving less. Their slow movements help them go unnoticed by predators that rely on sight to hunt down prey, like jaguars, ocelots, and harpy eagles.
They Spend Most of Their Time in Trees
Sloths spend almost all of their time in trees. They eat, sleep, mate, and give birth while hanging upside-down. Their internal organs are anchored to their abdomen, which shifts weight away from their diaphragm and lets them breathe more easily, and therefore expend less energy. Their three-inch claws also help them latch onto branches and stay suspended far above the forest floor.
They Come Down From trees to Poop
Due to their slow metabolisms, sloths poop once a week, and sometimes just once a month. Two-toed sloths often go while hanging from the trees, but three-toed sloths make their way down to the forest floor. Once there, they dig a small hole to defecate in. Scientists believe they might do this for mating purposes, allowing them to mark a tree for potential mates.
Female Sloths Scream When They Want to Mate
Speaking of mating, females will let out a loud, high-pitched scream to let male sloths know she's ready to mate. The ensuing gestation period is between five and six months, and then the female sloth will birth one baby sloth.
Algae Grows on Their Fur
Studies have shown that algae is sometimes passed down from a mother sloth to her baby, and it is both beneficial for both animal and plant. The sloth's long fur creates a cozy home for the algae, which readily absorbs the water they need to thrive, and the sloths get a coat of green-tinted fur that doubles as camouflage. Sloths also eat the algae, which provides a source of nutrients.
Three-Toed Sloths Can Rotate Their Heads 270-degrees
This unique ability can be attributed to their bone structures. Sloths have an extra vertebrae at the base of their necks that allow them to look in almost every direction.
They Have a Long Life Span
On average, sloths live to be about 20 years old, but some species can live longer in captivity. The world’s oldest sloth - a female of the Hoffman’s two-toed variety, lived until she was 43.
Learn more about sloths at Busch Gardens Tampa. The park is home to more than 10 sloths including Hoffman’s and Linne’s two-toed sloths. You can find them at Animal Connections.