Sloth update: still symbiotic, still super cute

Sloths popped into the news a while ago, as one of the mysteries of their behaviour – why, once a week, they climb down from the canopy to poo on the ground – was examined in a new paper.

Sloths are known for their leisurely lifestyle in the treetops, but there is more to them than meets the eye. A complex mini-ecosystem involving moths and algae may help keep the sloth both camouflaged and fed, and be the cause of their odd weekly habits. Pieces in the New York Times and National Geographic explain it all.

“The sloth is not so much an animal as a walking ecosystem. This tightly fitting assemblage consists of a) the sloth, b) a species of moth that lives nowhere but in the sloth’s fleece and c) a dedicated species of algae that grows in special channels in the sloth’s grooved hairs. Groom a three-toed sloth and more than a hundred moths may fly out. When the sloth grooms itself, its fingers move so slowly that the moths have no difficulty keeping ahead of them.” Nicholas Wade, New York Time

Sloths popped up again yesterday. Did you know what noise a sloth makes?

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