Wednesday, 24 January 2007


Yesterday I alluded to the existence of giant sloths: king-size, extinct cousins of the modern South American mammal. Some species reached lengths of up to 6m, and when standing on their hind legs they would have been twice as tall as an African bull elephant, and of similar bulk (around 5 tonnes). It has even been speculated that they would have driven sabre tooth tigers from their kills using their foot-long claws as daggers. This is particularly unslothful behaviour.
Their modern descendants, however, fully deserve their name. Sloths move so slowly that algae flourishes in their fur, giving them a sort of shimmering, one-with-the -forest look. Recently, after 3 years of attempting, unsuccessfully, to coerce a sloth to climb up and down a pole as part of an experiment in animal movement, German scientists gave up and banished the individual to a local zoo. "(He) obviously wanted nothing to do with furthering science," a university spokesman lamented.

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