What All Humans Can Learn From Sloths, a Scientist Explains

Full of wisdom, and sometimes, algae.

Flickr / SergioDelgado

If a fleet of intelligent life ever visits Earth, one can only hope that the ambassadors from our planet would be sloths. These slow-moving beauties not only have excellent winged eyeliner, but possess a keen understanding of what it means to “take it easy.” This International Sloth Day, a wildlife biologist tells Inverse what sloths know about the pursuit of happiness that humans don’t.

For all intents and purposes, sloths look like shaggy, slow-moving rugs — but cute ones! Pottery Barn quality for sure. Their fur hosts complex ecosystems of algae, moths, and more, which isn’t conventionally adorable, but important nonetheless.

While there are currently six extant species of sloths, they are divided into two groups — two-toed and three-toed. All sloth species live throughout Central and South America, where they spend their days lounging in trees and pooping once a week. Since they are wild animals, unfettered by capitalism and “adult” responsibilities, sloths usually sleep about 15 hours a day.

But what is it about sloths that makes them so unreasonably relaxed? According to wildlife biologist Imogene Cancellare, the answer might have to do with their biology.

“Sloths are so chill because they have to be,” she tells Inverse. “They are thought to have the slowest metabolic rate of any animal on earth!”

Zoo boissière du dorée, France

Flickr / leroy_regis

Since sloths are just so — as their name suggests — slothful, they must have more time to savor life. Unencumbered by bills, the news cycle, and Twitter, sloths have time to appreciate life. Maybe moving only 40 yards a day has something to do with that.

“Since sloths are so slow and move six to eight feet per minute, they probably have a lot of time to gain perspective here on earth,” Cancellare says. “All they do is stop and smell the roses.”

Flickr / JohnnyLightning

While none of us can Animorphs-style transform into sloths, we can all take a page out of their book. Life is best enjoyed like a fine wine sipped slowly — a wine that’s actually full of leaves. Or insects. Or whatever sloths eat.

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