Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Worlds Weirdest Animal Sloths
Sloths are medium-sized mammals that live in Central and South America belonging to the families Megalonychidae and Bradypodidae, part of the order Pilosa. Most scientists call these two families the Folivora suborder, while some call it Phyllophaga.
Sloths are omnivores. They may eat insects, small lizards and carrion, but their diet consists mostly of buds, tender shoots, and leaves.
Sloths have made extraordinary adaptations to an arboreal browsing lifestyle. Leaves, their main food source, provide very little energy or nutrition and do not digest easily: sloths have very large, specialized, slow-acting stomachs with multiple compartments in which symbiotic bacteria break down the tough leaves.
As much as two-thirds of a well-fed sloth's body-weight consists of the contents of its stomach, and the digestive process can take as long as a month or more to complete. Even so, leaves provide little energy, and sloths deal with this by a range of economy measures: they have very low metabolic rates (less than half of that expected for a creature of their size), and maintain low body temperatures when active (30 to 34 degrees Celsius or 86 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit), and still lower temperatures when resting. Sloths mainly live in Cecropia trees.