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5 fun facts about nature’s slowest animals


October 20th is International Sloth Day! There are actually some pretty cool facts about these slow, hairy, seemingly lazy creatures — Mr. Orlando is here to tell you all about them!

Fact - There are six species of sloths and they live in Central and South America


All six species of sloth live in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America. Of the six species there are two types: two-toed and three-toed sloths. They all mostly survive on the leaves of the trees that they hang out in. Some types of sloth have also been known to eat small insects, reptiles and birds when eating only leaves doesn’t give them enough energy.

Fact - Sloths are very, very slow and only move when necessary


Because sloths eat only leaves for the most part, they don’t have a lot of energy to move quickly or very much at all. A sloth's stomach is made up of many parts that take a long time to break down the thick leaves they eat — so everything about a sloth is slow! Sloths also have much less muscle than other mammals their size. A sloth would take about five minutes to cross a small two-lane road. If you look up the word "sloth" in the dictionary, it's also a word for laziness!

Fact - Even though they live upside down sloths are surprisingly good swimmers

Photo credit: northways via VisualHunt / CC BY

Even though sloths spend most of their time hanging by their claws in trees, they are actually very good at swimming. They use their long arms and legs to paddle through the water. Sloths can actually slow their heart rate down, which also allows them to hold their breath under water for up to 40 minutes!

Fact - Sloths only climb down to go to the bathroom once a week


Once a week, a sloth with slowly and carefully climb down from the trees to go to the bathroom on the ground! Can you imagine only going to the bathroom once a week? Scientists think there could be a few reasons why this is the case, but many believe sloths have evolved this way so they can avoid predators that hang out on the ground as much as possible. During storms and the rainy season, sloths skip climbing down to the ground and just do their business while hanging up in the tree.

Fact - Prehistoric sloths called Megatherium used to be the size of elephants!

About 35 million years ago there used to be a species of sloth called Megatherium that were as big as elephants. These were "ground sloths," meaning they didn’t live in trees like the much smaller sloths we know today. This could also be the reason why the sloths of today can swim so well — they use the instincts passed on to them from their ancient ancestors!