The 365 Commitment

The Bad Rap of a Sloth

The three toed sloth gets a bad rapport. They are the brunt of many jokes and their name is a kin to something far worse than laziness. If you call someone lazy, that is one insult, if you call them a sloth well them is fighting words. For centuries, biologists had no use for the sloth. No one really cared about these creatures.
For hundreds of years, the sloth was considered sort of nature’s mistake. They somehow survived in nature, but barely. They have no real function, no real survival instinct, just barely functioning creatures in a dense forest of vegetation with few predators. I remember watching a cartoon with my girls where the sloth was actually serving as a D.M.V. clerk. Double insult I suppose.

However, scientists have actually turned that upside down this last few years. As it turns out, the sloth is one of the lowest body temperature mammals in existence. Where humans survive at 98 degrees F, a sloth operates at 91 degrees F. They run a far less body temperature and as a consequence, require far less fuel. The human needs to have something constantly burning in their stomach in order to have their core body temperature at the level they can survive. Not so for the sloth! They have four stomachs and scientists have demonstrated that even their digestion is slow. It takes about 187 days for them to process the full nutrients of a mouth full of leaves.

They did not even initially have the metabolism to process leaves as their primary diet source, they adapted to it over millions of years. In fact, we humans in our current form have probably been around for only 200,000 years or so. The sloth, has been around for over 64 million years. So how has bragging rights now? The sloth are the slowest mammal on the planet and they spend far less energy too. They do not need that much fuel to survive. They do not need to fight over food, the eat the food no one else wants, they are not in a hurry to do anything. The blend in, make no waves and find themselves largely ignored by their entire environment.

Ultimately a sloth survives. They consume less, produce less, burn less and therefore die less. Slow apparently, in nature, wins.

Now, that is my nice attempt to excuse my slow movement this morning. I really need to get off my butt and get going.

Guy Reams

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