Living a life upside down

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 December, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 December, 1993, 12:00am

THE sloth is found to be the slowest land mammal in the world with a top speed of only two kilometres per hour.

To travel 100 metres, a sloth will take almost 22 minutes.

Sloths spend almost all their time upside down in the forests of South America. In fact, they adapt themselves successfully to this bizarre way of life.

They have long, curved claws just like meat hooks, they can turn their heads through 270 degrees and can be held almost the right way up while the rest of the body is topsy-turvy.

And they have hair that lies in the opposite direction to that of other mammals, from belly to back, so to make the tropical rains run easily off them.

Sloths eat, sleep, mate, give birth and nurse their young upside down, but they do not hang from the branches quite all the time.

They may sit in the fork of a tree, and sometimes come down to the ground, as when they cannot travel any further overhead by branches and creepers.

Sprawling on their stomachs, they drag themselves forward with their hand and stagger to the next tree.

They eat mainly leaves, shoots and some fruit, which they hook towards the mouth using their claws.