What’s with sloths’ dangerous bathroom breaks? Maybe hunger
For the three-toed sloth, a trip to the restroom is no rest at all. It's a long, slow descent into mortal danger from the safety of home among the upper branches of the forest.
But the harrowing, and excruciatingly slow trip may be key to staving off starvation.
"What is striking about this behavior is the vulnerability," says Jonathan Pauli, a professor of forest and wildlife ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who studies the deliberate, molasses-slow animals in northeast Costa Rica. "It's very dangerous. And the energy required is non-negligible for an animal that has such a restricted diet."
Unlike the two-toed sloth — which is, shall we say, less restrictive in its choice of latrine — the three-toed sloths creep down trees every eight days or so to the base of their tree. Once on the ground, they dig a hole with their tails, defecate in it, and cover the pile with leaf litter. Then, it's back up the tree in an achingly sluggish climb.
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="180"] Jonathan Pauli[/caption]
The fastidious ritual — nearly the only reason a sloth leaves the ...
Tuesday, January 28th, 2014