Why on Earth? Sloth

Why does this sloth venture out from the safety of the treetops to which it is so perfectly adapted? Click to find out Why on Earth this animal behavior exists!

Answer: Defecation!

Sloths are arboreal, meaning that they spend a majority of their lives in the canopy. Once a week a sloth will leave the safety of the trees to defecate and urinate.

Sloths are covered in fur that provides camouflage and have long limbs and claws that help them grasp and hold on to branches. On the ground they use their limbs to crawl to a desired location, dig a small hole and defecate.  Their long claws that are perfect for hanging on to branches without expending energy actually prevents them from being able to walk. It is incredibly dangerous for sloths to be exposed on the ground to predators that might be able to more easily spot them such as boas, Harpy eagles, and jaguars.

Several theories have been presented to explain why the sloth must return to the ground to defecate every week:

1. To avoid drawing unwanted attention that falling objects from treetops may bring.

2. To attract a mate or mark territory.

3. To fertilize the trees on which they live.

4. To contribute to the symbiotic relationship between the sloth and the moths that surround it.

Learn more about the special adaptations of other arboreal animals in Locomotion: How Animals Move and Locomotion and Skeletal Adaptations.

Why does this sloth venture out from the safety of the treetops to which it is so perfectly adapted?

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