Tag Archives: Weird science

Apparently, sloths are quite gross

Sloths are really interesting animals. They live in the Neotropics (parts of Central and South America), hang in trees, eat leaves, and move really slow. They generally only come down to the ground to go to the bathroom, which seems like a lot of work when they could just let it fall from the tree, but to each their own I suppose.

I just found a paper about sloths that I couldn’t help but share. If poo really grosses you out, or you are currently eating, you probably want to stop here.

Consider this a trigger warning. If you are triggered by poo.

The gist of this paper is that some researchers found sloths going into their toilet (which is basically a hole in the ground) in order to feed. The researchers weren’t sure if the sloths were getting nutrients from urine, feces, or insect larvae, but they were scooping up material in the latrine and eating it, so either way, it is both interesting and disgusting.

There is a surprising amount of nutrients in urine and feces and many animals will feed on them, but sloths are supposed to be mostly vegetarians. The researchers observed a number of sloths doing it, so it was not just one isolated individual.

Interestingly, sloths will sometimes eat meat given to them in captivity, so clearly sloths have the ability to eat more than leaves, but whatever they are eating in the latrines, I would say it probably isn’t usually an important part of sloth diets in the wild.

I will leave you with this quote from the paper: “When the animals emerged from the latrine, they were usually completely moistened.”

Take that as you will, and let us never speak of this again.

Two-toed sloth staring at you.


Heymann, E.W., Amasifuen, C.F., Tello, N.S., Tirado Herrera, E.R., Stojan-Dolar, M. (2011) Disgusting appetite: Two-toed sloths feeding in human latrines. Mammalian Biology – Zeitschrift fur Saugetierkunde 76 (1) 84-86