Oct 21

Saturday was International Sloth Day, so we thought we would celebrate by sharing our favourite sloth facts and images.

Sloth by name, sloth by nature

Sloths are one of the sleepiest animals known to man and can spend up to 20 hours per day sleeping.

Pale-throated three-toed sloth sleeping

We are family

One thing that can definitely be said about sloths is that they are extremely unique. Many people would guess that they are closely related to primates due to their impressive tree-climbing skills, although they are actually closely related to anteaters and armadillos.

Pygmy three-toed sloth climbing

There’s something behind you!

Sloths belong to the group Xenarthra, which means ‘strange joints’. The extra joints in sloth’s necks allow them to rotate their necks a remarkable 270 degrees.

Pale-throated three-toed sloth suspended from tree

Hanging out

The maned three-toed sloth spends so much time hanging upside down that its internal organs are positioned differently to other mammals.

Maned three-toed sloth climbing

Slow and steady

The slightly green appearance of sloths is due to the algae which live in their fur. This algae helps to camouflage the sloth and therefore protects them from aerial predation. This algae is able to flourish within the fur of the sloth due to their tendency to remain still for many hours.

Brown-throated three-toed sloth male hanging from branch

Leaf lovers

The extremely slow movements of sloths can be attributed to their low-energy diet. As folivores sloths eat a primarily leaf-based diet, which has resulted in them having a low metabolism and body temperature.

Southern two-toed sloth feeding while hanging from a tree

Don’t make me come down

Sloths remain in their arboreal habitat for pretty much 100% of their lives,  and only descend from the trees to defecate. Sloths have extremely strong arms but very weak legs, which means that moving along the ground is extremely difficult. When on the ground, they dig in their front claws and pull themselves along on their stomachs. Surprisingly, sloths are very good swimmers, using their long arms to move through the water.

Brown-throated three-toed sloth crawling on ground

Supersize sloths

Fossil records show that sloths have existed on earth for many thousands of years. Some remains indicate that these animals were previously super-sized, with a stature similar to an elephant.

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Content Officer.