The Three-Toed Sloth
January 2012: Did you know that the three-toed sloth rests on an average for around 20 hours a day? Found in the jungles of South America, this super-slow mammal moves upside-down on trees at roughly 400 m. an hour. It even mates and gives birth on trees and the babies travel by hanging on their mothers.
On the ground, it is even slower and moves at around 250 m. per hour. It is really surprising how an animal that is so slow and has a weak sense of touch, sight and hearing survives in the wild. Interestingly it uses its weakness – slow movement – to its advantage.
Its lack of movement and restful ways keep it out of notice of the big predators – jaguars, ocelots, Harpy Eagles and anacondas. It lies motionless even when awake and moves a little only at night, when it eats leaves and fruit. Further, its body hair contains algae that is brown in the summer and green during the wet season and helps the sloth camouflage perfectly with its surroundings. It has extra neck vertebrae that allows it to turn its head almost 2700. It depends on juicy plants for water and rarely, if ever comes down on land. Its hesitation to move on land is not surprising, given that it has weak hind legs and that it must dig into the ground with its front claws, drag its stomach across the ground and pull itself up using its front legs.