Animal of the Week! What Is An Unau?

unau_evelinThe next time you want to insult someone really lazy or slow moving, say “ugh, you’re such an unau!”.  That’s pronounced yoo-no.  It’s also a great Scrabble word if you’re trying to get rid of two u’s, you know.

A Unau is a two toed sloth, weighing in at 10 – 20 pounds, that spends its life hanging upside down from trees in Central and South America.  According to the San Diego Zoo, these sloths “spend so much time upside down that they are the only mammal whose fur is parted running belly to back to allow water to run off quickly during rainstorms”.  Unaus grow green algae on their fur to blend in with their surroundings which is one of their few defenses against predators.  Primary predators of unaus include big cats like jaguars, birds of prey and even large snakes such as anacondas.  The green algae on their fur comes in handy not only as camouflage but as a source of food.  When the unau runs out of its usual repast of berries, leaves, nuts and the occasional rodent, she can eat the algae from her fur.  Yummy!

Unaus move along tree limbs by climbing limb over limb at, what can best be described as, a glacial pace.  They have four inch long claws which make it almost impossible to walk on land but they are adept swimmers.  They are known to drop down from their branches into water to swim across rivers.  Not surprisingly, these sloths sleep 15 – 18 hours a day (just like your teenager!) and have extremely low metabolisms.  They also have the most variable body temperature of any mammal with a range of 74 degrees to 92 degrees Fahrenheit.

And know you know about the unau!

 

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