Sloths have a short end in many ways. Who wants to be named after a deadly crime? Nor is it merely an English quirk to call them “sloths”; Other languages have names around terms like “lazy”, “slow” and “sleep”. The three-toed sloth’s scientific name, Bradypus, means “slow feet” in Greek. Only their cute, slightly confused looks worthy of an Internet meme can save them from being written off as completely useless.
But sloths are much more than just small bags of laziness. Here’s a fact about sloths to change their bizarre lethargy in the animal kingdom.
Animal defecation is not generally a topic to set the heart racing. Scientists, however, are another breed. It turns out that there is a mystery at the heart of how sloths use the bathroom.
We have seen the lengths to which sloths go to hide from predators. They are creatures honed by evolution to live and feed in trees. Yet, once a week, they descend from their tree to defecate. This lengthy process leaves them utterly at the mercy of passing predators. Why do they do this dangerous activity when they could simply let their droppings drop from the trees?
One solution that has recently been suggested involves sloths, their algae, and moths. This may not be the most alluring threesome, but it’s one that works for sloths. The Cryptoses choloepi moth lives exclusively on sloths and lays its eggs exclusively in sloth droppings. The moth itself defecates on the sloth, which feeds the algae living there. So the moths and algae benefit, but why does the sloth go along with this somewhat distasteful business? Because sloth diets lack variety, they eat the algae and other things living on their body to gain nutrients. Farmers have a reputation for hard graft, and the sloth is no exception.