Sloths do not grab their own arm and fall to their deaths. This is just preposterous to say the least. But it has gained a fair bit of attention and notoriety online over the years, but why? Why is it that such a statement is adhered to as being an actual factually correct assertion?
Have you seen the factoid that says that sloths grab their own arm, thinking that it’s a branch, and fall to their death? When I first saw it I thought that it certainly seemed plausible. Partly because of their extremely slow movement. The three toed sloth is the slowest moving mammal in the world, so it did seem possible that such slow movement could result in such an action. But then I decided to look into it, and it made very little sense. In fact, the entire myth was started by one simple statement by the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams. See, it’s already starting to unravel.
Fans of his works will undoubtedly know the famous line in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that said humans were the second most intelligent life form on Earth. The smartest was the mouse. It’s only a satirical statement made for no other purpose other than entertainment. But it gives a little insight into the factoid.
The claim that sloths grab their own arm and fall to their death first appeared in an unpublished essay by Douglas Adams in the book, “The Salmon of Doubt.” The book was a posthumous book that contained both published and unpublished material by the author. This just happened to be one of the statements. But in all fairness he claimed that it was baby sloths, and it was their ineptitude that caused this to happen.
Now here is the problem. This is something that has never been witnessed or scientifically documented. It was just the musings of one man. In reality it defies complete logic, and here’s why.
If you think about it, the actions of completing the task of grabbing their own arm and falling requires a few things to fall into place that just doesn’t make sense. Firstly, the sloth would have to be completely lacking of all sense of touch. The feeling of grabbing their own arm should alert them that it isn’t a branch. Secondly, it would suggest that even though the baby sloth is young, it is not intelligent enough to grasp the idea of what is a branch and what is not. They may be slow in movement, but not Forrest Gump slow. The third and final part of the problem is that there are a lot of tree dwelling mammals in the world, and this is not a problem that any other creature faces. If it affected sloths, it would surely affect other animals in the same way.