Not just an adorable face: four freaky sloth facts

Most of the time sloths make me want to cry because they have sleepy eyes, gangly limbs and their mouth can make a little half smile grimace thing and it’s all impossibly adorable.  A lot of the time though, they make me say whaaaat? Because they are also, incredibly odd.

Sometimes it looks like they can pop out their eyeballs, but actually they’re partially retracting them instead.

Photo by photon_de

When tightly closing their eyelids, the eyeballs can move further into their sockets with the eyelids sinking in behind them. It’s when the sloth needs to then open their eyes quickly (if they’re stressed or feeling aggressive) that the eyes and lids quickly rise back into place, giving the illusion they’re popping out.

Don’t ever try to suffocate them.

Obviously because that’s an awful, horrible, incomprehensible thing to do. But also because they can survive without oxygen for over 20mins, so you’d be standing there for ages. This incredible ability to go without breathing is matched by some marine mammals that actually need to dive for a living, and is far greater than other terrestrial mammals.

And probably don’t touch them.

Photo by Thowra_uk

Sloth fur is a haven for algae, which in return for it’s hairy home, turns the fur shades of green and brown helping the sloth to camouflage. Bugs however love sloth fur too, and they’re a host for a huge array of bug life, including flies, mosquitos, lice, ticks, beetles, mites and moths.

And lastly, sloths are promiscuous.

While it was thought sloths might be monogamous (mating for life) this isn’t strictly true with many taking on a more opportunistic sexual lifestyle. When they do consummate that… opportunity, the pair hangs from the trees in a tight embrace, facing each other, with the male behind the female in some sweet upside down hug. Sweeter still however is with that aporx. 7min long affair we get baby sloths!

And I go back to crying out the tears of my melted heart.

Photo by Matt MacGillivray


Bezerra, B. M., da Silva Souto, A., Halsey, L. G., & Schiel, N. (2008). Observation of brown-throated three-toed sloths: mating behaviour and the simultaneous nurturing of two young. Journal of Ethology, 26(1), 175-178.

Gilmore, D. P., Da Costa, C. P., & Duarte, D. P. F. (2001). Sloth biology: an update on their physiological ecology, behavior and role as vectors of arthropods and arboviruses. Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, 34(1), 9-25.

Irving, L., Scholander, P. F., & Grinnell, S. W. (1942). Experimental studies of the respiration of sloths. Journal of Cellular and Comparative Physiology, 20(2), 189-210.

Peery, M. Z., & Pauli, J. N. (2012). The mating system of a ‘lazy’mammal, Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth. Animal Behaviour, 84(3), 555-562.


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