Sloths: Giving New Meaning to Slow

Perhaps you know someone who does everything in a very calculated, slow, unhurried fashion. Perhaps that even describes you. Perhaps you are one of those people who get very frustrated with people who have to methodically think through every step of a process and don’t ever seem to move quickly. Regardless of how slow these people may seem, they are not as slow as the sloths.  Sloths are some of the worlds slowest creatures, which spend most of their lives hanging from tree branches. This article will discuss sloths and how these small slow-moving creatures play into the origins debate.

While sloths today are not large, rarely making more than two and a half feet in length sloths of the past were enormous. Some sloths in the fossil record were the size of small elephants, and many lived on the ground. Today, the best place to find a sloth is hanging, often upside down, from the limb of a rainforest tree.  The range of modern sloths is restricted to Central and South America.

Sloths are classified in the same order as anteaters, but the two share few common traits. Sloths can rotate their head nearly three-quarters of the way around, allowing them to see threats coming while expending minimal energy.  Sloths weigh anywhere from just under eight to seventeen pounds depending on the species.  The lack of weight is a bonus considering they spend much of their life hanging from tree branches.  While sloths have the ability to perceive colors, their vision is not sharp and clear like humans are. Sloths see blurs of color.

Sloths rarely move. In fact, some species spend as much as twenty hours a day sleeping. While that may sound like a slightly fictionalized human teenager,  it is a reality for these sleepy creatures. When they are awake, sloths move very slowly. They move so slowly and so little that their fur actually is home to algae. This alga has benefits, as it helps provide camouflage for the sloth.  Their metabolism works twice as slow as most animals their size, and they can adjust their body temperature based on their surroundings. Because of this, sloths can essentially speed up or slow down their metabolism based on need. They even have the ability to go into a hibernation-like state called a torpor if the temperature gets low enough.

Hanging from a tree requires some special equipment. Fortunately, the sloth comes pre-equipped with all the tools for the job. Instead of growing toward the limbs, as most other mammals, sloth hair grows away from the limbs. This means that sloths do not perennially have bad hair days when they hang from a tree. The hair grows with gravity and allows water and debris to run off rather than pool in the hair. The sloth also has very strong leg and arm muscles and large tough claws it uses for grip. Further, sloth organs are attached directly to the rib cage. This means that the organs don’t sit on top of the lungs when the sloth hangs down and strangle it from within. Sloths are so at home in the trees they only come down around once a week to go to the bathroom. On the ground, sloths move at the breakneck speed of nearly ten feet per minute. For reference, at that rate, it would take nearly nine hours to move one mile. In the trees, it will move the massive distance of one hundred and twenty-five feet a day in search of leaves and the odd bird or insect. Shockingly, this slow arboreal mammal is actually a gifted swimmer.  It swims nearly three times as fast as it walks and can hold its breath for forty minutes by suppressing its heartbeat and lowering its metabolism.

Sloth reproduction is one of the few things they do quickly. They have no elaborate mating ritual that characterizes many other creatures. They don’t have the energy for it. However, gestation in female sloths takes anywhere from six to twelve months. Baby sloths live with their mother for upwards of eight months before moving out on their own. Even when they do, they will share parts of a range with their mother and will communicate with her for years after moving out.

Sloths provide an interesting dilemma to the evolutionists. They present very clear symptoms of design. Why how did natural selection know sloths would hang from trees and thus give them claws that lock to them to tree branches? How did it know to have the hair grow the opposite way that it does on just about every other mammal? Why are the organs attached to the rib cage? Its almost as if natural selection somehow knew that sloths would hang upside down. And how do evolutionists explain why sloths developed the ability to regulate their own metabolism?

Creationists have no issues with the sloths. They can point to the sloths and say they were made that way from the beginning. Only a wise Master Designer could have designed the sloth with organs attached to its rib cage and claws designed for hanging from a tree.  Only a designer would be able to create an adjustable metabolism that allows sloths to digest their food and get the rest they need. Sloths were designed just as they are from the beginning.

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