Sloths, Moths and Algae: More Alike than Different


Johner Images

Credits: Johner Images

When you think of sloths, you may think of lazy creatures living in canopies and sleeping all day. When you think of moths, you may think of small, winged insects fluttering around light sources. When you think of algae, you probably think of the icky green slime growing on fish tanks. These three organisms work together to keep their ecosystem alive!

To learn more about sloths, I went to Ms. McFadden, a sloth enthusiast, and expert, who shared that “sloths live in tropical rainforests, so in Central America and parts of South America.” Ms. McFadden also shared that “sloths eat leaves and twigs when hanging out in the canopy. Some of them will eat fruits or insects, and hibiscus flowers are a big treat for them!” Ms. McFadden also noted that one loveable characteristic of a sloth is that they’re “surprisingly really talented swimmers, which just shows their diversity. They are not just slow and ‘lazy.’ They have a lot of other attributes to them too.”

As we know, sloths are slow and chill creatures that hardly leave their canopies. But when they do, it’s typically once a week to leave feces on the forest floor. Scientists have wondered for years why sloths do this, but when sloths do, something interesting happens.

The Cryptoses species of moth needs the sloth to continue its digestion cycle because pregnant moths lay eggs in sloth feces. When the eggs hatch as adults, they fly to sloths to mate in their fur. A sloth’s fur is full of algae and is an excellent breeding ground for moths! Thus the cycle of life continues, producing more offspring for the ecosystem.