Solitary and slow moving, Sloths are known for hanging upside down in trees. People usually consider Sloths to be lazy creatures, since They rarely move from their tree limb. What people fail to realize is how unusual mammals that Sloths really are.
Other than Howler Monkeys, only Sloths can live and flourish on a diet of tree leaves. They have complex stomachs for digesting coarse and toxic tree leaves. Since their food is so difficult to process, Sloths digest leaves very slowly. To speed up their digestive processes, Sloths seek out warm places.
Besides eating tree leaves, Sloths are unusual for their green-tinged fur. The grooves in their hair encourage blue-green algae to grow on Sloths’ bodies. Living on Sloths’ fur are also various kinds Beetles and Moths that live off the algae. These plants and animals help Sloths to hide in the rainforest canopy, since together They resemble a tangle of branches. Predators usually cannot see Sloths hanging in trees.
In the trees, Sloths eat, sleep, mate, and give birth upside down. Since Sloths spend most of their life upside down, their internal organs are in different positions from other Mammals. Their liver, spleen, and pancreas have moved 135 degrees downward. In addition, their claws maintain such a tight grip on a tree limb that Sloths never fall out of trees, even when sound asleep. Unlike other Mammals, the direction of Sloths’ hair goes from their bellies to their backs so that rain can readily run off their bodies.
Sloths are full of surprises. For example, Sloths are so particular about where they go to the bathroom, that They will leave their tree to prepare an acceptable place on the ground. When threatened, Sloths move fast with their sharp claws to disembowel a predator. Since They are excellent swimmers, flooded forests do not deter Sloths from finding food.
However, there are disadvantages to living upside down in the trees. Sloths cannot maintain constant body temperatures. Like Lizards, Sloths must sun Themselves to raise their body temperature, and move into the shade to cool down.
Since They offer a such different perspective on life, Sloths can teach the advantages of looking at life upside down. Seeing things another way can help you adapt to seemingly impossible situations. Just remember not to hang upside down so long or you will have algae growing on you.
Take time to read what the Individual Sloth Teachers have to teach.
Sloths are distantly related to Anteaters and Armadillos. The two branches of the Sloth Family, the Two-toed (Magalonychidae) and Three-toed Sloths (Broadypodidae) differ significantly from each other. For example, the larger Two-toed Sloths are more nocturnal. Meanwhile, the smaller Three-toed Sloths possess a small tail, that the Two-toed Sloths do not have.
Photo of Two-toed Sloth courtesy of Sloths.Org