Monday, May 7, 2007

Dumbass Design™: The Sloth

The sloth is well-named. It is lazy and slow. There are flowers that bloom faster than a sloth moves. No kidding.

Let me say some nice things about being slow. Slow can work. Tortoises are slow. Snails are very slow. Tortoises and snails are extremely successful creatures.

What make the sloth an example of Dumbass Design™ is that sloths are warm blooded. Being warm blooded takes energy, and the advantage is that a warm blooded creature can stay active in a greater range of temperatures. Most cold blooded creatures become nearly motionless when the weather gets cold, some reverting to a hibernation that borders on suspended animation.

Tree sloths live in tropical rain forests, where the temperature stays hot enough for even cold blooded creatures to stay active year long. So we have a warm blooded creature moving as slow as a cold blooded creature in an environment where even cold blooded creatures don't have to be slow moving. Energy expended for no advantage whatsoever.

The Dumbass Designer™ moves in mysterious ways, his blunders to perform.


Padre Mickey said...

When the Lovely Mona and I lived next to the Tropical Forest, we saw many sloths. One day we saw one gunning through the forest, swinging from tree to tree in a great hurry (no really, they can move quickly when they want to!). I hollered to the Lovely Mona to get the camera and Señor Sloth stopped and pulled himself up and hung from the tree like a bag made of carpet samples. Another time my sister and I found a sloth on a low tree. It tried to make itself invisible by closing its eyes. One day Señorita Chompita Wiggletail was making more noise than usual, and when found a baby (well, maybe a toddler, as much as these guys toddle) sloth on the clothesline. It took its time figuring out how to get back up the tree, but really moved pretty fast (for a sloth; I mean, it didn't shoot up the tree like a kitten).
I remember seeing a National Geographic program about some super-slow moving sloth, but my experience with the Sloths of Paraíso is that they move fast when they so desire.

Matty Boy said...

Thank you, Padre Mickey, for the up close and personal info on sloths. I was not aware they had a top speed more than one mile an hour. Also, if they get down on the ground, there are predators around, aren't there? Ones who are more interested in actually finding food than your happy and well fed Chompita is, I'd imagine. "Fast for a sloth" doesn't sound like much of a match for "fast for a jaguar" or the other cats of Latin America.

Even with my mistaken information on the top speed of sloths, I am going to keep the label of Dumbass Design™ on this particular post.

Karla said...

But the sloth is so cute! Me likey!

Does that make me a dumbass?

Padre Mickey said...

Well, not much can mach that "fast for a jaguar" thang.
I never saw a sloth on the ground, they were always in trees. But they are reasonably quick. That NG program had a sloth which took a month to get down from the tree just to poop, so that was what I was expecting.

Karla, they ARE cute, especially the baby ones (ohh, baby mammals, ooooooo.). But they smell bad. They also have big nasty claws (some have three!)

Here endeth the talk on sloth, one of the seven deadly sins.

El Padre

Matty Boy said...

Yes, this was my first test in the waters of Cute but Dumbass, though I personally think the Arctic Tern is a handsome little bird. Some of my future posts will include critters universally considered cute, and then the controversy will bubble.

The padre also points out the Smells Bad part of being sloths, which may keep them from being preyed upon by the jungle kittles and the large birds of prey that also inhabit the sloth's territory.

Jess Wundrun said...

When I was in Costa Rica we took a guided hike and saw a 3-toed sloth. Our guide told us that sloths have to come down out of the trees to take a poop (about 1x/10days - which is how I have been feeling lately. I digress). At these times the sloth can move very quickly as noted by Padre Mickey. This makes me think of my dad with the Sunday paper under his arm truckin' it for the john.

Ah nostalgia.

Matty Boy said...

Thanks for the info, Jess, and the well written gag. I've often wondered what sloths do to attract mates.

"Hey, Phyllis! Did you see how that guy ran when he had to take a dump? I gotta hook up with DAT guy!"

I'm willing to entertain alternate hypotheses.