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Sloth Adaptations: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

Sloths have become some of the most well liked animals in the world. Come and learn about how sloths have adapted to their environment in order to thrive and survive.

Introducing: The Sloth

Did you know that sloths have been around for millions of years? However, back then they were enormous - about the size of an elephant! The giant sloths became extinct thousands of years ago and today they are much smaller (around 23 to 27 inches long). Sloths are mammals who live in the treetops in the tropical forests of Central and South America, spending a lot of time upside down!

While many sloths can live to be over 20 years, there are predators and other dangers that can end their lives early. In order to survive, sloths have developed adaptations, which are changes that a living thing makes in order to thrive in its environment. Let's learn more about some of these sloth adaptations.

Now You See Me, Now You Don't

Imagine that you suddenly see something coming towards you that wants to eat you. Think fast - what should you do? One option that you have is to hide, which is exactly what sloths do, too. One of their adaptations is to camouflage, or blend in with their surroundings. Their fur is around the same color as the trees where they live. Sloths' fur is also almost completely odorless, so they smell just like the trees. This makes it difficult for predators to find them.

Can you spot the sloths?
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Sloths' fur isn't able to camouflage all on its own. In fact, if you were to examine the fur, you would find that it is much more than hair. Each hair has a little groove in it and algae grows inside of it. This algae makes the sloth look slightly green. You would also find mold, fungi and several different kinds of insects which help the sloth camouflage.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Let's go back to when you were deciding what you would do if something was trying to eat you. Another option that you might consider is to run as fast as you can to get away from the predator. This is not an option that sloths take advantage of. In fact, they are one of the slowest moving animals in the world with an average of speed of .07 miles per hour. Talk about a snooze fest!

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