Sloth Mysteries Revealed

Relationship with moths plays a role in bathroom habits

Jan 23, 2014
Outside Magazine

How do scientists explain this guy's pooping habits?    Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sloths hold a special place in our hearts. They’re adorably lazy, always remember to eat their greens, and are Kristen Bell’s spirit animal. And now, research is revealing some interesting facts about this slow species.

The first discovery has to do with why three-toed sloths descend from their homes high in the tree-tops to go to the bathroom on the forest floor. Once every three weeks, the animals risk their lives to complete the journey, expending so much energy getting to ground level that they had researchers perplexed.

It seems a relationship with pyralid moths plays a role. The moths deposit their eggs in the fresh sloth dung, simultaneously (and somewhat mysteriously) adding nitrogen to the sloth’s fur, according to National Geographic.

The nitrogen plays a role in a second finding: three-toed sloths host a variety of fungi in their fur. Chemicals isolated from the fungi have been found to actively fight parasites that cause malaria, Chagas disease, and can even ward off breast cancer cells in humans, says Popular Science

No more baths for these baby sloths:

Not Now

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