Sloth; The Most (un)Deadly Sin

The sloth, scientifically known as Folivora, was one of the first creatures to make an existence high up in the tropical forest canopy of South America. It is a distant relative of the ant-eater and there are two kinds of sloth, the two-toed sloth (Megalonychidae) and the three toed sloth (Bradypodidae). Due to a lack of predation, coupled with plentiful food sources without competition from other predators sloths are to spend up to eighteen hours a day asleep, with relatively minimal fear of threats from predators.

With all its apparent defenselessness, the sloth would appear to be extremely vulnerable to attack from predators. Its muscles (they only have about a quarter as much muscle tissue as other animals of similar weight) render it only capable of moving only when necessary and even then, very slowly. However, since sloths are usually hanging on the top of branches of trees, very few predators are able to reach them, hence reducing their exposure to the prevalence of predator attacks. Sloths also commonly feed on one kind of leaf, Cecropia, which fortunately for the sloths, grows in abundance and is easily found. Also, no other species of animals compete with the sloth for Cecropia leaves. The lack of competition coupled with its relative abundance and ease in locating ensures that sloths have plentiful food sources.

Hence, despite the physical deficiencies of the sloth; its lack of muscle mass, it is virtually dumb and hearing poor and its sense of smell, though better than Man, is still less acute than that of most mammals; life is pretty good for a sloth. It faces relatively low threats from attacks from predators and it has an abundant food source. This is possibly why sloths are able to spend up to 10 hours a day sleeping.




1. BCB705 Biodiversity: Chapter2 – Evolution of Biodiversity

2. Stewart, Melissa (November 2004). “Slow and Steady Sloths”Smithsonian Zoogoer.Smithsonian Institution.