Sunday, July 29, 2012

Animal Spotlight: The Sloth

Today's "Animal Spotlight" is the arboreal South American three-toed sloth (Bradypus variegatus).  The three-toed sloth holds the record for the world's slowest mammal: in fact, it is so slow, that algae grows on its fur, giving it a greenish color.  The algae helps to camouflage the slow animal in the treetops of its rainforest home.  In the case that its camouflage fails it, then it will resort to taking a stab at its attacker with its incredibly large claws.  Definitely not something that you want to take a hit from.

After perusing a few sources, I have come up with a list of the top 10 sleepiest animals, as you can see below.  The numbers are all number of hours spent sleeping a day. 
  1. Koala:            20-22
  2. Sloth:             20
  3. Armadillo:       19
  4. Opossum:       19
  5. Lemurs:          16
  6. Owl Monkey:  17
  7. Lion:              14-16
  8. Hamster:        14
  9. Squirrel:         13-14
  10. House Cat:     11-12 
 HERE is a link to an earlier post about the koala, and why it is so sleepy.  The sloth apparently is so incredibly sleepy simply due to the fact that its leaves are so poor in nutrients, much like the predicament the koala finds itself in.

Two other sloth facts struck me as pretty interesting.  The first one is the fact that, due to a few extra neck vertebrae, the sloth can turn its head 270 degrees, as you can see in the picture below.

The second interesting fact is that, despite the poor ability of the sloth to walk on the ground due to weak hind legs, they are actually surprisingly adept swimmers, as you can see in both of the videos below.

A Sloth Walking

A Sloth Swimming

According to the website of National Geographic, the three-toed sloth is labeled as "Endangered" by the IUCN.  Sloths live in Central and South America, and the three-toed sloth specifically inhabits the countries of Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guyana, and Brazil.

Finally, to learn a little bit more about the sloth, click on the link below.  The video is a short clip narrated by David Attenborough, and is also quite amusing.  Enjoy!

Saying "Boo!" To A Sloth

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