Sloths only poop once a week, but when they do they make sure it's a good one

Sloths only poop once a week, but when they do they make sure it's a good one

Sloths are synonymous with laziness and are likely to go down in history for being the most sluggish creatures to ever grace the earth.

However, when it comes to their bathroom habits the word 'slow' doesn't even begin to cut it.

The arboreal mammals only poop, on average, once a week. Yep, in the time it takes you to work five eight-hour days, go for a dozen beers on a Saturday, barely survive your hangover, and be back at your desk on Monday morning, a sloth does exactly one poop.

two sloths on a tree in costa rica Credit: Getty

This single excrement becomes even more alarming when you realise that a sloth can lose up to one-third of its body weight when pooping and you can see their stomach physically shrink as they do it.

There's no sure way of knowing, but it's said that, for a sloth, popping to the toilet is more painful than human childbirth - I can't say I would want to go through that more than once a week, would you?

Again, to makes the situation even more startling, the only thing that stops this excrement from crushing them is that their bowels and other internal organs are hooked onto the sides of their bodies.

In order to stop the astonishing amount of poo from squashing their lungs and diaphragm when they hang upside down in trees, sloths effectively have their internal organs taped to their ribs and hips. Pretty insane, right?

So, the question we're all gagging to know by this point is, why? Why on earth would sloths only poo once a week?

The answer is, it's not a choice for them. The notoriously unenergetic creatures have an incredibly slow metabolism, and it can allegedly take them up to a month to digest certain types of food, as their body struggles to get every bit of nutrients.

To make things even more interesting though, when the world's slowest-moving mammal do eventually take their weekly poo, it comes with a risk of death. That's right, while you're casually reading the morning newspaper on the loo, sloths are busy brushing shoulders with Dr. Death.

In order to defecate, sloths make their way out of their trees and down to the ground, where they are in full view of predators. On the ground, they do what has been named 'the poo dance', a bizarre routine where they wiggle their backsides and create a small hole in the soil for the faeces to go in.

Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus variegatus) moving on cecropia tree, one of the more than 200 species of trees that sloths use to live and to feed on, Costa Rica Credit: Getty

When they're done, they clamber slowly back up their tree to safety again - if they're lucky, that is. Pooing is the number one most dangerous thing a sloth can do, and according to National Geographic, more than half of sloths lose their lives traveling to and from the WC.

I know what you're thinking: if it's so treacherous, why don't sloths just poo from their trees, therefore minimizing the risk of assassination?

The honest answer is, no one knows. The truth is that we have to let sloths make their own mistakes and watch while they suffer the consequences.

There are a few theories on the matter though; back in 2014, researchers from the University of Wisconsin hypothesised that the slow-moving mammals head down to get a helping hand from the moths of the world.

Moths that live on sloths help to fertilise a type of algae in their fur; this is allegedly good for their survival because it gives their fur a greenish hue, camouflaging them from predators and potentially providing nutrients when eaten or absorbed through the sloth's skin.

Another theory from Rebecca Cliffe, a sloth biologist at Swansea University, is that the creatures lay their waste at the bottom of their tree to communicate reproductive availability.

But do these explanations live up to the hype? Not exactly - to this day, no one has been able to unequivocally prove why sloths risk their lives every time they poop. And it seems like we'll be left to wonder for a very long time.

So, with all this new information, let me ask you this: with all the stress that comes along with pooping, are sloths really that lazy? If you ask me, they're heroes with a bad rap.