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10 Sloth Adaptations (Evolutionary Secrets!)

10 Sloth Adaptations

Examples of sloth adaptations include long limbs, strong and looking joints, a slow metabolism, and sharp claws. As vegetarians, they need these adaptations to keep up with their dangerous environment.

Sloths, even if they are slow, are highly adapted animals. They can camouflage, climb trees, and also conserve a lot of energy. Below are some of the best adaptations of the sloth that make it unique among xenarthran mammals.

Sloth Adaptations

1. Super Slow Metabolism

Sloth

Sloths move ever so slowly because they also have a slow metabolism. What it means is that they have adapted to conserve energy to survive.

On average, a sloth moves only 41 yards per day, and the slow movement is attributed to the leaf diet of these animals. Leaves have little protein and calorie content, so they must conserve it.

In addition, all six species of sloths live in tropical rainforests where it can be hot. In this environment, moving slowly can help since the sloth does not have to burn a lot of calories to stay warm.

2. Specialized Tendons

Sloths have strong tendons that lock into place when they are on a tree. As a result, it does not have to exert effort or pressure to keep itself in that position.

This specialized tendon and muscle arrangement can produce enough strength and gripping power to keep the sloth having upside down without wasting energy. It is also the reason they have the capability to sleep while hanging. Some sloths even die in this position.

3. Camouflage Coat

Giant Ground Sloth

The sloth’s coat is not brown without reason. Its color is so close to the color of tree branches, and it serves as camouflage, preventing predators from seeing them.

The most common predators of the sloth in the wild are the jaguar and the eagle, both of which have good vision. With the sloth’s fur color, these predators could not see the sloth in the tree.

The sloth’s coat is also odorless, which is another way that the sloths fool predators into thinking that they are not around. When a jaguar walks by and looks around, it can’t see the sloth and also can’t smell it. As such, the sloth can go about its business once the jaguar has left the area. 

4. Giant Claws

The claws of a sloth are made of bones, not nails. However, these bones are covered with material that is the same as nails. They use these claws to climb trees. When these claws break, they get replaced with new ones.

The massive ad curved claws are vital for their survival, as they use these claws to hold on to tree branches and pull leaves to eat.

Sloths have to climb to wear out these claws consistently. If they are not used often, these bones will curve too much that it becomes painful.

5. Long Limbs

Three-Toed Sloths

The long limbs of sloths give them advantages in their environment. They can reach branches and climb better, especially so because their limbs can support them in many positions. 

The forelimb is also slightly longer than the hind limbs because the sloth has to use its arms to reach things. The hind limbs are there for support. In addition, the hind limbs do not have curved claws.

6. Nocturnal Behavior

Sloths, being prey, have adapted to survive at night. They are most active at night, sleeping more than 15 hours in the day.

Sloths also spend only about 10% of their time moving. During the day, they sleep in tree branches, far from the ground, where they can be easily spotted.

Most nocturnal animals hunt at night to reduce the likelihood of predation. The thing is that the jaguar is also a nocturnal animal. Nevertheless, the sloth is at a serious advantage by adapting a nightlife because it can camouflage better.

7. Four-Chambered Stomach

Two-Toed Sloths

The tummy of a sloth has four chambers. It is similar toa cow’s stomach, but then the sloth digests food ten times slower than cattle. 

The sloth’s stomach is constantly filled with food to the point where the tummy makes up 30% of the animal’s weight. The tummy also has todigest food consistently, and the sloth only goes down the trees once every six days to urinate and defecate. 

8. Swimming Abilities

Sloths are good swimmers. They can drop from a tree to the water and swim their way to another bank where there is more food. 

What’s astonishing is that sloths can swim three times faster than they can walk. And best of all? They can hold their breath for 40 minutes underwater.

9. Spinning Heads

Sloth

A sloth can swivel its head 270 degrees. It had adapted this way to give it a better view of its surroundings. Sloths can do this because they have three extra vertebrae on their spine—these are neck vertebrae. 

The sloth uses this capability to see around, much as some owls do. It is an important adaptation, considering that they move so slowly. With good vision, they can spot predators and do something about them.

10. Protective Fur

The last adaptation in this list is the protective fur of the sloth. Not only does it serve as camouflage, but also a habitat for algae and arthropods.

The fur allows the sloth to survive the rainy days, as it is dense. The fur keeps the sloth dry during the rainy season as it stays up in the trees. The fur’s outer hair also hangs at an angle, making it easier for water to flow off. 

Conclusion

Sloths may be slow, but then their slowness is what keeps them alive. Even their ancestor, the giant ground sloth, was a slow-moving and solitary animal.

Sloths have adapted in so many ways, and although they may look like monkeys, they are not primates. They are also not marsupials. Instead, they are Bradypodidae, and are closely related to anteaters and armadillos.

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