sloth fact

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Fun Fact Friday!

If not for giant sloths, we might not have avocados to enjoy today.

Prehistoric ground sloths first appeared around 35 million years ago. Dozens of species lived across North, Central and South America, alongside other ancient creatures like mastodons and giant armadillos. Some ground sloths, like the megalonychid, were cat-sized, but many were massive. The Megalonyx weighed about a ton, and that was small compared to megatherium, which could reach six metric tons, as much as an elephant. They ambled through the forests and savannas using their strong arms and sharp claws to uproot plants and climb trees, grazing on grasses, leaves, and prehistoric avocados. Smaller animals couldn’t swallow the avocado’s huge seed, but the sloths could,and they spread avocado trees far and wide.

Can we get a ‘thank you giant sloths!’?

From the TED-Ed Lesson Why are sloths so slow? - Kenny Coogan

Animation by Anton Bogaty

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Why are sloths so slow?

Giant ground sloths flourished for millions of years, but around 10,000 years ago, they started disappearing along with the Western Hemisphere’s other megafauna. Researchers think that ground sloths could have been pushed out by an oncoming ice age, or competition with other species, maybe humans, who arrived in the region around the time most of the sloths went extinct. Some of the smaller sloths did survive and migrated to the treetops. Today, there are six species left living in the rainforest canopies of Central and South America. 

Hanging out in the trees is a good way to avoid predators, and there are plenty of leaves to eat. But this diet has its drawbacks. Animals extract energy from food and use that energy to move around, maintain their body temperature, keep their organs working, and all the other activities necessary for survival. But leaves don’t contain much energy, and that which they do have is tough to extract. Most herbivores supplement a leafy diet with higher energy foods like fruit and seeds. But sloths, especially three-toed sloths, rely on leaves almost exclusively. They’ve evolved finely tuned strategies for coping with this restricted diet. First, they extract as much energy from their food as possible. Sloths have a multi-chambered stomach that takes up a third of their body, and depending on the species, they can spend five to seven days, or even weeks, processing a meal.

The other piece of the puzzle is to use as little energy as possible. One way sloths do this is, of course, by not moving very much. They spend most of their time eating, resting, or sleeping. They descend from the canopy just once a week for a bathroom break. 

When sloths do move, it’s not very fast. It would take a sloth about five minutes to cross an average neighborhood street. This unhurried approach to life means that sloths don’t need very much muscle. In fact, they have about 30% less muscle mass than other animals their size. Sloths also use less energy to keep themselves warm because their body temperature can fluctuate by about five degrees Celsius, less than a cold-blooded reptile, but more than most mammals. These physical and behavioral adaptations minimize the sloth’s energy expenditure, or metabolic rate. Three-toed sloths have the slowest metabolism of any mammal. The giant panda is second slowest, and two-toed sloths come in third.

Moving slowly has allowed sloths to thrive in their treetop habitat. But it’s also made the sloths themselves a great habitat for other organisms, including algae, which provides a little extra camouflage, and maybe even a snack. Sloths may not be giant anymore, but that doesn’t make them any less remarkable.

From the TED-Ed Lesson Why are sloths so slow? - Kenny Coogan

Animation by Anton Bogaty

This quote from “True Facts About the Sloth” was especially helpful to me when I was working on my thesis earlier this year, so I made a picture for it and hung it above my desk. My desk was always too cluttered with art stuff for me to work on my thesis or nap there, but it’s the thought that counts. 

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s: “True Facts About the Sloth.”

anonymous asked:

38, 76, 90 😄

38: Introvert or extrovert

I am definitely an introvert. I try to avoid talking to new people as much as possible so I don’t have many friends in reality. If I ever go to a social event, I stick to my friends and avoid strangers. But once I’m friends with someone I’m one of the weirdest and loudest people they would have ever met. 

 76: Do you like birds?

Oh I love birds! 🕊️🐦 I actually had 5 birds of my own, but sadly they all passed away from old age.

 90: If you were an animal, which one would you be?

Many of my friends have said I’m like a sloth because I sleep a lot. Especially on weekends, I usually sleep in till the afternoon. Fun fact: Sloths can sleep up to 20 hours a day!

Ask me something!

Originally posted by richdifeo