December 9, 2022

Sloths Can Hold Their Breath For A Shocking Amount Of Time Underwater

When you picture a sloth, the words “endurance” or “stamina” probably don’t come to mind. Sloths, in addition to being some of the cutest and most cuddly creatures in Mother Nature’s marvelous cradle, are known for being astoundingly “chill” and easy-going creatures. According to Rainforest Alliance, the tree-dwelling beings can barely walk at all, so the likelihood that they’ll get gobbled up by a ravenous jungle cat or terrifying bird of prey is pretty high. The fact that they can only move at a maximum speed of 0.17 miles per hour certainly doesn’t help in that regard (via AZ Animals).

However, if you put a sloth in a body of water, the narrative changes entirely. They almost become different creatures entirely — or at least different from the ones we’re used to seeing hanging from trees and chomping on leaves. When a sloth moves through water, you see some really remarkable and unexpected natural marvels come to light. 

Sloths can hold their breath for 40 minures

A little known fact about sloths is that they are able to hold their breath for an astonishing amount of time. Because of their ability to slow their heart rates to one-third of the normal pace, the funny little animals can refrain from taking a breath for up to 40 minutes, as Travel+Leisure reports. This nifty little feat can certainly come in handy if a sloth is being pursued by a predator and needs to seek cover beneath the surface of a nearby pond or lake. 

We generally associate the outrageous ability to hold one’s breath underwater with turtles. However, according to the Oliver Ridley Project, sea turtles have been known to hold their breath for around 45 minutes to an hour, which really isn’t much longer than a sloth. Imagine the oceanic convergence of sloths and sea turtles if the former one day decided to seek refuge in the deep blue instead of trees… 

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Sloths can swim really fast

Okay, so “really fast” is a stretch, but comparatively speaking, the speed at which a sloth can swim is pretty amazing in relation to how slow it walks. According to Travel+Leisure, sloths can swim a whole three times faster than they can walk! Unfortunately, it’s not quite fast enough to outswim a shark, so sloths should probably hold off on becoming ocean-dwelling beings alongside their deep-lunged brethren, the sea turtles. 

All the same, there’s an actual evolutionary benefit to a sloth’s ability to swim so well, so no, it’s not just a fancy little perk that Mother Nature granted the animals for no reason at all. On their website, The Toucan Rescue Ranch writes, “All of the habitats where they call home have the potential of having bodies of water nearby: mangroves, rivers, lakes and oceans. To not be able to swim would mean certain death if they happen to fall into any of these waters.”