The Biomimicry Manual: What Can Sloths Teach Us About Energy Efficiency?

It’s a scientific fact that there’s nothing cuter than a baby sloth in a bucket. But even if Facebook ‘likes’ turn out not to correlate with biological fitness, sloths are a runaway success by any measure. Well, maybe not so much ‘runaway.’ But it’s certainly true they’re not going anywhere. Sloths have an outstanding survival strategy, as their unexpectedly high density in South and Central American tropical forests attests. In some areas, sloths consume half the energy and make up two-thirds of mammalian biomass. That’s a lot of sloths. But it’s hard to see them because they hardly move—their leafy diets just don’t provide enough energy for them to monkey around. How do they succeed on such meager rations? Simple. They are consummate energy misers. Can humans learn something about conserving energy from the sloth?