10 Facts About Sloths That Will Surprise You

Did you know that sloths spend most of their lives hanging upside down? They’re arboreal mammals and naturally live in the treetops of Central and South American rainforests. There are six species of sloths across two families.

Sloths have become popular on the internet and are often referred to as spirit animals. But what is it about these tree-dwellers that has captured our attention? Let’s take a look at some interesting facts about sloths!

Sloths Live Up To Their Name

Sloths have a slow metabolism and can take up to 30 days to digest a single leaf. They move at an average speed of 13 ft per minute and only increase to 15 ft per minute when in danger.

Sloths Spend Little Time Moving

Sloths are vulnerable to predators and have no defense mechanisms. They spend most of their time at a standstill in the hopes they won’t be noticed. They only leave the trees to go to the bathroom once a week.

Wild Sloths Are More Active Than We Thought

Sloths were easier to study in captivity than in the wild, leading to the assumption that they slept up to 15-16 hours per day. However, a study published in 2008 found that wild sloths only sleep around 9-10 hours per day.

Sloths Have Three Toes, Not Two

Two-toed sloths have two claws on their front legs and three on their back legs. Three-toed sloths have three claws on both their front and back legs. The mis-translation of the Spanish word for toes and fingers causes confusion in their naming.

Modern Sloths are Much Smaller than their Ancestors

Today’s sloths are considerably smaller than their ancestors. All the sloth species that exist today are less than 31 inches (80 cm) in length and weigh no more than 17 pounds (7.7 kg).

However, giant sloths, the predecessors of modern-day sloths, were significantly larger. These prehistoric sloths lived on the ground rather than in trees and were up to 20 ft (6 m) long and weighed nearly 5 tons!

Most giant sloths disappeared around 11,000 years ago, probably due to hunting.

Sloths are So Slow that Algae Grows on Their Fur

Sloths have a symbiotic relationship with a unique kind of green algae that grows on their fur. The algae only grows on sloth fur, and the sloths allow it to thrive. In return, the algae provides camouflage for the sloths, which are relatively defenseless animals.

There are Two Different Families of Sloths

Most people think of sloths as a single species, but there are actually two species of two-toed sloths and four species of three-toed sloths. These two types of sloths come from different evolutionary families, and they have notable differences, including their sleeping patterns. Two-toed sloths are nocturnal, while three-toed sloths are awake during the day.

Sloths are Surprisingly Good Swimmers

Sloths may not be very good at walking, but they are surprisingly good swimmers. While they can only move at up to 13 ft (4 m) on land, they can swim at an impressive rate of 44 ft (13.5 m)! Another interesting fact about sloths is that they can hold their breath for up to 40 minutes.

Sloths Spend Most of Their Lives Hanging Upside Down

Sloths spend up to 90% of their lives hanging upside down. For humans, this would lead to feelings of sickness, but sloths have evolved in a way that allows them to breathe easily in such positions. Their internal organs are attached to their abdomen, which makes it possible.

Sloths’ Smiling Faces Are Deceptive

Although sloths may look happy and content, the structure of their faces gives the appearance of a smile-like expression. In reality, we cannot tell if sloths are happy or not just by looking at their faces.

The Timeless Appeal of Sloths

Despite the ever-changing landscape of internet trends, the love for sloths seems to endure.

Perhaps it’s their ability to tap into our innate desire for relaxation and laziness that makes them so appealing.


1. What makes sloths so slow?

Sloths have a very low metabolic rate, meaning they don’t need much energy to survive. This allows them to conserve energy by moving slowly and sleeping up to 15 hours a day. Their slow movement is also due to their long, curved claws that they use to hang onto branches, making it difficult to walk on the ground.

2. Do sloths really sleep all day?

Yes, sloths are known for being one of the sleepiest animals in the world. They can sleep for up to 15 hours a day, and when they are awake, they move very slowly. However, they are not lazy animals. Sloths are just conserving their energy to survive in their natural habitat.

3. What do sloths eat?

Sloths are herbivores that primarily eat leaves, buds, and tender shoots. They have a specialized stomach with multiple chambers that allows them to digest tough vegetation. As they have a very low metabolic rate, they don’t need to eat a lot to survive. In fact, they only defecate once a week!

4. Are sloths good swimmers?

Contrary to popular belief, sloths are actually very good swimmers. They can hold their breath for up to 40 minutes and move through water using a breaststroke-like motion. However, they rarely swim in their natural habitat, as they are arboreal animals that spend most of their time in trees.

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