The Secret Behind Spaced-Out Sloths: A Valium-Like Fungus
If you thought sloths couldn’t get any slower, you are wrong. There is an entire species addicted to sedatives. Nature has a strange sense of humour.
Measuring at just 50cm, the Pigmy Three-Toed Sloth is the smallest species of sloth currently known. Other than being tremendously cute (and critically endangered), these little munchkins have one other notable aspect of their lives; they spend it high on Valium – or at least, a Valium-like substance. It explains a lot!
Sloths by nature, are notoriously slow animals, and this particular species is slower than the rest. It was scientist Bryon Voirin who made the discovery and actually noted during his reach how easy the sloths were to catch due to their overly laid back nature.
HOW AND WHY ARE THEY CONSTANTLY HIGH?
This particular species of sloth is only found on Escudo, a small island off the coast of Panama. It is thought that for 9000 years they have evolved to deal with the island’s habitat, acquiring a taste for red mangrove leaves. In fact, it is all they will eat. When put in other trees, scientists observed that the sloths made a bee-line for the nearest red mangrove (as much as a bee-line as a sloth can make!). The thing is, when investigated, it was found the mangrove leaves on the island were infested with a fungus - which is thought to be the culprit for the constant Valium-like high.
The sloths are so spaced out, that green algae and even moths were found living in the fur of one particular sloth.
The revelation first arose when Bryson and his team took EEG brain scans of the sloths to compare them to their mainland cousins. It was found that the slow wave activity they exhibited during sleep was extremely similar to those of people addicted to Valium. Although the idea of drug addiction was dismissed at first, it is now the leading hypothesis, with the team now investigating the Valium-like fungus in much more depth.
If there is any creature on this planet that needs to slow down and enjoy the sights a little more, it is not a sloth!
Written by: Josh
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