Who you calling commensal?
January 30, 2014 7:44 PM   Subscribe

Once thought to be a commensal relationship between Crytoses choloepia, a sloth shit loving moth that lives exclusively in the hair of the sloth and the sloth, scientists now believe that the sloth moth, the sloth, and an green algae that also exclusively lives in the sloth's main, form a complex ecosystem that allows all of them to survive. Previous metafilter sloth love.
posted by bswinburn (34 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

sloth is cooperative eco-system sloth is sustainable peaceful hail sloth join sloth religion now hang with us o brothers
posted by The Whelk at 7:47 PM on January 30 [8 favorites]

slothmoth! slothmoth! slothittymothittyslothittymothittyslothittymothitty...
posted by this is a thing at 7:58 PM on January 30 [6 favorites]

Sloths are the only animals important enough to have a Deadly Sin named after them. Now, that's impressive...

(well, there is a 'Pride' of Lions...)
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:01 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]

Whoa. Wait a minute! Way to bury the lede here! GUYS — THEY FIGURED OUT WHY SLOTHS POOP ON THE GROUND! And it's way grosser than previously suspected!
posted by this is a thing at 8:01 PM on January 30 [5 favorites]

I remember the sloths-pooping-on-the-ground-as-elegant-perfection thing from the MTV show Wild Boyz.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:07 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]

Genetic engineers sometimes dream of inserting chlorophyll molecules into human skin cells so that people could photosynthesize their own food. The sloth had the idea first, probably millions of years ago

This is mind-blowing for two reasons.
posted by darkstar at 8:08 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]

This is the thing: I thought about including that, but then you have the entire issue of how two toed sloths don't poop on the ground, and have a smaller amount of moths in their hair.
posted by bswinburn at 8:17 PM on January 30

Speaking of sloths and sloth love. I love me some sloths. They are cool as a cucumber while being epic creatures all at the same time.

So, story time!

I'll never forget the night we were in Tena, Ecuador at the Marquis Grille, which was a splurge since they are way higher than other traveler/beatnik fare for Ecuador in general, and the two sloths that live in the restaurant came to join us.

So, if you like sloths and you're in that area, go. Not just for the awesome paintings on the walls of a crazy naked river woman or Chief Jumandy* and for the awesome caves named after said Chief to be found nearby, but to have dinner with a freaking sloth or two hanging out overlooking your table.

*Whilst being a half jaguar-half man and stomping on a cross and a sword, while a village burns in the background. Rock on Chief, you are awesome.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:27 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]

More importantly: If cats get Impact and doge gets Comic Sans, what font does the sloth meme get?
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 8:33 PM on January 30

I just tried to explain this to my girlfriend, and her response was, "So, a sloth is basically a catbus?"
posted by thecjm at 8:34 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]

Is there a link to the paper anywhere? Am I just not looking hard enough?
posted by deadbilly at 8:36 PM on January 30

This is the abstract to the paper, but I don't know where you can get it free.
posted by bswinburn at 8:44 PM on January 30

Thanks bswinburn! I have access through my university.
posted by deadbilly at 8:52 PM on January 30

I used to work in a museum exhibit that kept a two-toed sloth. He definitely pooped on the ground, and partially buried it. I know, because I cleaned it up quite often. He even had a favorite spot, and he did a butt-shimmy dance when he was pooping. Here he is, doing his dance.

On the other hand, he was a spoiled little dude who would sleep on the floor of his enclosure, and whose favorite food was a microwaved sweet potato. So. He might not be the best example.
posted by Coatlicue at 8:52 PM on January 30 [4 favorites]

I couldn't help but read that entire article in Ze Frank's voice.

For the uninitiated
posted by Itaxpica at 9:13 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]

I, for one welcome our new sustainability consultants.
posted by lordaych at 10:23 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]

But remember the sloth, which has solved all its problems by living in the slow lane.

It's a nobler existence for the sloth, but I'll take comfort in that I don't have to worry about a jaguar eating me when I take a shit, or a Harpy Eagle descending upon me when I'm watching Netflix. #slothlife
posted by lordaych at 10:30 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]

Sloth fossils
posted by maggieb at 10:31 PM on January 30

Sloths are the only animals important enough to have a Deadly Sin named after them. Now, that's impressive...
Eh. Gluttony.

I could go on, but it's too much work. Although to be fair this week I'm cultivating my acedia rather than my sloth.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:34 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]

On a moar srs note, the comparison made in the article between self-sufficient chlorophyll within "your" cells and sloths eating algae initially struck me as a slight stretch, but my pedanto-meter was out of calibration and it occurred to me that moving forward some of the biggest leaps in genetic engineering technology, like super-duper bacteria that eat petroleum in the oceans but don't eat us and convert CO2 but don't eat us are going to involve building these "biomes" in addition to using engineering and materials and such to create matrices and structures to host them. Or maybe it's just a bad Sci-Fi premise, but imagine a cybernetic organism with multiple organic lifeforms under the hood and crawling on it and such. JEAH

You heard it hear first: condors that carry beneficial bacteria that converts CO2 into Skittles that fall from on high and gives them resistance to endocrine disruptors and DDTs and the like so they grow in large numbers and we all taste the rainbow
posted by lordaych at 10:36 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]

I do something similar with peanut butter, potato chips and my beard.
posted by srboisvert at 5:21 AM on January 31

Curiously, this week I came across another interesting paper starring sloths; here's Sloth Hair as a Novel Source of Fungi with Potent Anti-Parasitic, Anti-Cancer and Anti-Bacterial Bioactivity (open access).
posted by khonostrov at 5:40 AM on January 31

posted by Billiken at 6:07 AM on January 31 [1 favorite]

But... What do the moths eat?
posted by subdee at 6:56 AM on January 31

I assume just the moss, which makes moths-algae the ecosystem and the sloth the host-farmer...
posted by subdee at 7:00 AM on January 31

Is it moth to rhyme with sloth, or sloth to rhyme with moth?
posted by Devonian at 7:01 AM on January 31

Is it moth to rhyme with sloth, or sloth to rhyme with moth?

posted by yoink at 8:40 AM on January 31 [1 favorite]

"So, a sloth is basically a catbus?"

A bit closer to a dirigible behemothaur, I think.
posted by stebulus at 9:25 AM on January 31

(Wait, are there accents where "sloth" and "moth" don't rhyme? That would totally make my day.)
posted by this is a thing at 12:00 PM on January 31

Animal Planet ran a short series called Meet the Sloths. The jerks refuse to air reruns, or so it seems. It's totally worth your time if you love to spend time slack jawed over cuteness/awesomeness. It does have it's tragedy, though. BE WARNED (it's not always easy keeping sick sloths alive).
posted by Atreides at 12:21 PM on January 31

(Wait, are there accents where "sloth" and "moth" don't rhyme? That would totally make my day.)

OED's sole pronunciation for "sloth" rhymes it with "both," not "moth."
posted by yoink at 1:00 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]

head explodes
posted by this is a thing at 1:11 PM on January 31

"A goth moth doth froth on Hoth," quoth Roth.
posted by yoink at 1:22 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]

"Green algae grows on the sloth’s hair, which has tiny cracks that store water. The sloths are thought to eat the nutrient-rich algae to supplement their limited diet of leaves."

posted by Lexica at 7:56 PM on February 1

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