Going to the bathroom can sometimes be painful for humans, but scientists agree that it is always a painful experience for a sloth.
Sloths have one of the most unique rituals when it comes to defecation. Unlike most other animals, the sloths only urinate and release their bowels once a week.
"When the floodgates open, it's a big production," Cathy Schlott, curator for the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, told the Washington Post.
How Does A Sloth Poop?
When a sloth does their weekly poo, a lot comes out. Rebecca Cliffe, a sloth biologist at Swansea University, observed the sloths and could see "their stomachs physically shrink" when releasing poop. The animals can lose up to one-third of their body weight during defecation, and the poop can weigh over 2 pounds.
The sloth has to physically climb down from a forest canopy to poop. To start the act of defecation, a sloth initiates a ritual dance that helps with the process. The dancing creates a tiny space in the dirt for the turd. The sloth can also do a second dance just to get back up the tree.
As the sloth only goes to the bathroom once a week, the turd emerges as a long piece, which scientists say, resembles an old banana. Constipation is a normal part of a sloth's life and consequently, each bowel movement can be as painful as childbirth.
Why Does A Sloth Poop This Way?
There are a couple of reasons why sloths poop this way. These animals have a slow metabolism, and it can take them a month to digest certain types of food.
This doesn't fully explain why the sloth maintains a unique ritual for pooping, however. One theory raised by scientists in 2014 suggests that sloths poop near the base of the tree to give moths a place to lay eggs. In turn, the moths fertilize a form of algae that sloths use to camouflage their fur from predators, and it provides some nutrients, although, some scientists do not agree with this full theory.
The Danger For Sloths When Pooping
In addition to the severe pain of defecation, there is another danger for sloths that maintain this practice. The act of pooping occurs on the forest floor, which can be a dangerous place for sloths as predators lurk. About half of sloth fatalities occur when they are doing this ritual.