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.
An incorrect fact floating around the Internet should be of no surprise to anyone. It is, however, rare to be able to pinpoint the source. The fact in question runs like this:
“My absolute favourite piece of information is the fact that young sloths are so inept that they frequently grab their own arms and legs instead of tree limbs, and fall out of trees.”—Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt
That would indeed be a great piece of information. Unfortunately, it isn’t true. There is no mention of such ineptness in the scientific literature despite long and detailed study of rearing orphaned sloths. There is no mention of this “fact” on the Internet that can be dated to before the publication of The Salmon of Doubt. Baby sloths spend their first months clinging to their mothers in the trees. A baby sloth that fell from a tree would not stand much chance. Evolution is a hard teacher.