Sloths, the world’s slowest mammals, have evolved over 64 million years into a species that thrives throughout Central America and northern South America, but climate change and human sprawl could be threatening the species’ survival.
Scientist Becky Cliffe is conducting the world’s first-ever population study of sloths so she can determine just how much trouble the animal might be in. Cliffe said her staff is suddenly seeing fewer sloths and some are suffering from an illness she suspects may be related to climate change; sloths are starving to death even though they have full stomachs.
“We’re getting extreme periods of hot dry weather, and then extreme periods of prolonged cold and rain. And that is not what sloths have evolved to survive in,” Cliffe said. “What we’re discovering is that the microbes in the sloth’s stomach that they use to digest the leaves they eat, when the sloth gets too cold, those microbes die. So even though the sloth might be eating and looking well, it’s not digesting its food properly. So they’re losing energy and they’re getting very weak.”
Read more: cbsnews.com