Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Why Sloths Leave the Trees to Poop

By Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer | January 21, 2014 07:01pm ET

Sloths are the quintessential couch potatoes of the rainforest, and these sluggish tree-dwellers also serve as a hotel for moths and algae.

Three-toed sloths descend from the trees once a week to defecate, providing a breeding ground for moths that live in the animals' fur and nourishing gardens of algae that supplement the sloths' diet, newresearch finds. Leaving the trees burns energy and makes sloths easy prey for predators, but the benefits of a richer diet appear to be worth the perils.

"Important interspecific interactions — between sloths, their moths and algae -— seem to be reinforcing, or even dictating, important aspects of sloth behavior, especially their ritualized behavior of descending the tree to defecate," wildlife ecologist Jonathan Pauli of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, leader of the study published today (Jan. 21) in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, told LiveScience in an email.

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