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.
A stumbling block in drug development is the design of new bioactive compounds to test. One of the simplest ways to get new possible medicines is to mine the myriad ones that already exist in nature. A looming antibiotic crisis makes this more vital than ever. It turns out that sloths, and the ecology they carry in their fur, may be just the place to look.
All organisms compete for survival. Just because you’re living on a sloth’s back doesn’t mean you get a free ride. The microorganisms fight for space and food. They release compounds to kill their neighbors. One study found fungi producing new compounds with powerful antiparasitic, antimalarial, anti-cancer, and antibacterial properties.