Friday, October 24, 2008

The "Sloth" of All Sloths---Not Made Out To All It's Supposed To Be?

We have all used or heard the word "sloth" thrown around in a derogatory manner; the "sloth" we are so familiar with is a notorious reference to the slow and lazy impression we get from the species. In fact, many characteristics of the sloth do seemly shape our perception of a "sloth"---it is the slowest animal on the planet (with the speed of 5ft/min), it spends its days hanging from the trees and, because it cannot walk, only descends to the ground about once a week to defecate and urinate, and snoozes for over 16 hours a day.

Although the previous statement is valid for the most part, a recent study shows that the last trait---that the sloth sleeps over 16 hours/day, is anything but. By monitoring the brain activity of sloths found in the Panama rain forest, scientists were able to conclude that sloths only slept for an average of 9.6 hours a day, while other animals like pythons sleep for 18 hours a day. According to Dr. Neil Stanley, an expert in sleep disorders at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, UK, the study on sloths that previously assumed sloths slept for 16 hours a day was faulty on the basis that it was performed with sloths under captivity: "It's intuitive that animals would sleep less in the wild than in captivity - this technology gives us the opportunity to prove that's true".

Perhaps this new technology could contribute to the study of sleep patterns in humans in the near future, but for now, the sloth is proven to be less of a "sloth" than all of us first perceived.

To read the original article, refer to:

Posted By: Helen Thi(6) 10/24


At 9:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an interesting idea, I feel like not many people would get the idea to study this but having this information could make poeple want to study the animals more. Maybe we will discover other qualities that would help their reputation.

Erica Damon

At 3:51 PM, Anonymous Allison Cornell said...

I, of course, had heard the term sloth used to refer to lazy people, but I didn't really know much about the sloth. I had no idea that they only came down from trees once per week to relieve themselves! That seems like an awfully long time in between going! You said that the study looked at the sloths' brain activities. How was this done with wild animals? What is the "new technology"?

Allison Cornell (6)

At 4:35 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Is it really true that sloths can't walk? Or are you just referring to the fact that they don't walk normal because of how slow they are? That was a little confusing. Also, it's already possible to use technology to study brain waves in humans and study their sleep cycles/ dream patterns etc., is this a completely different type of technology?

Ashley Maillet

At 4:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder why it was previously thought that sloths sleep for 16 hours a day. Do you know what is considered sleeping? Does it have to do with brain patterns and REM cycles? I wonder if the sloths appear to be sleeping for 16 hours, but when they did the study they found they were only "sleeping" for some of this time. I wonder if they just don't move for the other 6.5 hours and are just in some sort of resting state. This might be so in the wild because maybe the sloth is still alert while it is resting, and then only sleeps for some of that time. Do you know anything about when they sleep, if it is more nocturnal or diurnal? Also, I wonder if the study was sound as these animals are in captivity while the experiment was done so maybe in the wild they act differently. I wonder how strong the sloths arms are comparatively, as they need to hang on all the time it seems like. Do they sleep while they hang or do they curl up in the trees somewhere?

Rachel Carboni

At 5:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never knew anything about sloth behavior, except that they moved slowly. I didn't know that they only come down from the trees once a week. What technology did the researchers use to monitor sloth brain activity?

Amy Kawazoe

At 10:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that was an interesting article. I guess it shows that science is only getting more acurate, perhaps we should re-test other animal behaviors that could have been faulty due to inadequate technology

Mia DiFabbio

At 11:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was very interested to learn some interesting facts about sloths. You mentioned that animals in the wild sleep less than those in captivity. Could that be for predation reasons? I would imagine that wild animals are much more alert than captive animals.

Posted by Sarah Moltzen

At 1:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very intereting article. I always assumed they were extremely lazy. I did not know where there daily cycle was. It is interesting there is such a large dispartiy in the amount of sleep. I thought they would sleep less beacuse of the stress induced from being in captivity.

Duy Nguyen

At 2:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew that sloths were "slothful" but i didnt realize the characteristics that made them so.
How does the information about sloth's sleeping habits relate to human sleeping habits?

-Cecelia Hunt

At 4:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know much about sloths, and I'm curious about why they are so seemingly inactive. Does being so slow make them as easy target for predators? What is it about their bodies that make them so conservative with their energy? And how did they carve out such a strange niche?

- Jane de Verges

At 5:02 PM, Blogger PWH said...

I find this discovery about sloths intriguing, but I was wondering if sloths were the only animals that increased their sleeping time in captivity, as opposed to in the wild, to almost 200%. Going from 9.6 hours to about 16 hours is a pretty significant increase, and if there are any other animals that portray this alteration of behavior, I think studying the effects of captivity on sleeping habits would definitely be beneficial to the scientific world.

-Kiel Boutelle

At 5:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting article. It is strange that they would be inactive for so many hours of the day. I wonder what evolutionary purpose this serves.

Alex Pavidapha

At 5:52 PM, Blogger PWH said...

I like the concept that animals in captivity sleep more often than in the wild. I assume this would be true for most animals? I know my dog sleeps a lot and if If he had to fend for himself to get food and shelter, I doubt he would spend so much time lounging around. I just wonder if they sleep more out of boredom or if its the environment. Additionally I wonder if humans naturally need less sleep but because of our created environments sleep more. A lot could be done with this idea.

Patrick Salome

At 6:00 PM, Blogger PWH said...

I never knew that sloths were actually that "lazy". I was completely unaware that they are unable to walk. You said that since they can't walk they only go to the ground once a week to relieve themselves, but how do they do this? If they can't walk how do they get around once on the ground in order to relieve themselves and then get back up the tree? Also, how did they monitor their brain activity in the wild. I would think that they would have to hook them up to something and in the wild that would be difficult. It is a very interesting study though, good find!

-Tara Quist

At 6:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have sloths never been observed in the wild before, or was it just preiously assumed that wild sloths were sleeping because they weren't moving? I remember from somewhere that sloths move so little that algae can grow on their fur, giving them a green appearance. At first I thought that staying awake longer than previously thought would give the sloth a better chance of survival since while awake they could watch out for predators. But then I thought, would it realy make a difference? If they can't walk, and only move at 5 ft/minute, they can't really outrun anything. Does a sloth have any natural predators?

-Corinne Delisle

At 6:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This article shows how some scientific data cannot be taken 100% into consideration... It takes scientists that dare to test a hypothesis to figure out the real truth. When testing a hypothesis we have to consider all the possible factors that might be contributing to a certain behavior. In this case, the habitat in which the sloth lives, whether in captivity vs. in the wild.

Brena Sena

At 8:04 PM, Blogger PWH said...

The wild sloths may sleep less because they have be more aware of their surroundings than sloths in captivity. Sloths in captivity are fed and don't have predators to worry about. It is amazing that these animals do not get preyed on even though they hardly move. What is their main predator?

Rob Lubenow

At 8:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sloths are known to be "lazy" animals. I'm curious to know their defense mechanism against predators.

- David Huynh

At 9:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

first off what an interesting article. i had no idea that they couldn't walk. however i can see that measuring an animal in captivity would provide bad results. i would imagine any animal in captivity would sleep a lot.

Matthew Sousa

At 10:20 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Interesting article, I always thought that sloths moved slow, but 5ft/min I thought that they moved much faster then this. I am curious about the sleep thing, how do they quantify sleep? Do sloths display different levels of sleep similar to humans?

-Joe Alonzo

At 10:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have always thought sloths were really interesting animals because they are so different, it is amazing that they move only 5 feet per minute! I think it is good that researchers found out the truth about sloths but I am unsure how this will help humans. We already have sleep-monitering technology to observe humans but to moniter the sloths they attached a device for them for days...I don't know if any people would be able to do this. I'd like to find out more about that.

-Julie Riley

At 11:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sloths are sweet. Such a slow moving animal is incredible to think exists in the wild. They must not have many predators in their habitat high above the ground.

I wonder if this new technology, this sleeping monitor, has some sort of effect on the sleeping pattern of the animal. What exactly does this sleep monitoring device with which they equipped the captured sloths do? How does it work? What does it look like?

Jordan Grinstein

At 11:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While it may seem natural to assume that indeed a sloth is a very slow animal, couldnt research be conducted on the speed and mobility of animals otherwise? I am sure that there are animals such as snakes or pandas that move at a less efficient pace. In fact, the phrase, "as slow as a sloth" should be renamed!

Ahmed Sandakli

At 12:06 AM, Blogger PWH said...

Extremely interesting article.....who would of thought sloths in the wild possibly slept for similar periods as humans.....i wonder what other factors decrease their sleeping period in the wild

-Joanne Philippeaux

At 12:58 AM, Blogger PWH said...

thats interesting, i didnt know pythons sleep over 18 hours a day. 9.6 hours a day doesnt seem that bad compared to pythons 18 hours, do you know how long these animals live ?

-Hessom Minaei

At 3:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you should have written more about the technology part of it- I feel like you opened a whole new subject but gave no information about it. Please tell more.

Noam Pelleg


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