Sloths, moths, algae may live in three-way benefit pact

Insects and green slime may justify slow mammal’s risky descent from trees

By Susan Milius, 18:41 PM January 21, 2014

A tree-dwelling sloth’s climb down to ground level for its weekly bathroom break may not be pointless daintiness.

The trip is risky and (for a sloth) energetically expensive. Yet the effort could be the sloth’s contribution to a mutually beneficial, three-way partnership.  The sloth’s trips seem to encourage moths that mate in the mammal’s fur and algae that thrive on moth detritus, suggests Jonathan Pauli of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The payoff for the sloth, after a Rube Goldberg-l...

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