You might think this is going to be an article that looks at all kinds of sloth facts, and it is. However, it is also an article that explains one very important point: Why you will want to consider booking a visit to Costa Rica in the near future.
Before we answer the question of “how long can a sloth hold its breath,” though, we’ll look at why Costa Rica should be on everyone’s travel bucket list.
Facts That Explain Why You Should Visit Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a small, Central American country but is home to more than 5% of the entire planet’s biodiversity (even if it has only .03% of the planet’s landmass). It has ten times more marine mass than landmass and over 800 miles of coastline. It has more than 120 volcanic formations (seven are active!), and the number of animals, plants, birds, fish, and other living things you can encounter is almost endless.
For example, there are more than 50 kinds of hummingbirds in Costa Rica, the most common mammals are monkeys (there are four common species you’ll find), and it is home to more than 750,000 kinds of bugs!
As one enthusiast said, “Costa Rica is one of the most valued environmental destinations. Approximately 25% of the country has protected forests and reserves. There are more than 100 different protected areas to visit.”
And that brings us to the issue of “how long can a sloth hold its breath?”
Why? Because several of those protected areas are also a natural home to the beloved and unique creatures we know as the sloth.
How Long Can a Sloth Hold Its Breath and a Handful of Other Fascinating Facts
Before we dive into a list of the spots in Costa Rica where you can pay a visit and see sloths in their natural habitat, let’s take a few moments to learn what you can expect to see or discover as you gaze up at these amazing creatures.
So, to finally answer that question: Just how long can a sloth hold its breath? Believe it or not, they can hold their breath for up to 40 full minutes while underwater.
How fast can a sloth swim? Surprisingly, a sloth moves faster underwater than it does on land, and because they can naturally slow down their heart rate to around 1/3 of the average pace to accommodate being underwater. They do not do a lot of swimming, but it is interesting to imagine a sloth swimming and zipping along underwater, and not emerging for the greater part of an hour!
Their digestive systems, on the other hand, are a lot slower. It is estimated that they empty their bowels and bladders around once a week! It has to do with safety as they must descend from trees to do so and being slow movers makes them vulnerable to attack. So, it is a once-a-week bathroom break for the average sloth.
They are so slow-moving, in fact, that they can develop a specific type of algae and fungi on their fur. And while there is a certain “ick factor” to that idea, experts have determined that some of the fungi may be the basis for powerful drugs. Research by the Smithsonian has found that their common fungal growths contain cancer-fighting and anti-parasitic agents.
Another disconcerting truth about sloths is the fact that they can enjoy a 360 degree view. While they cannot turn their heads entirely around, they can turn them a whopping 270 degrees in both directions. This is due to the number of vertebrae in their spines that enable a lot more swivel. Unfortunately, they have horrible vision, and so that swiveling may be more about reaching food than keeping themselves safe.
Because they have poor vision, they need help with grasping things easily, and that is where their unusual finger bones come in handy. Looking like serious claws or nails, these bones are four-inch long protrusions that allow them to easily hook on to tree branches, and even hang easily while they sleep.
And though they do have offspring, most sloths spend the majority of their lives in peaceful solitude. They do not gather together in groups, except when pairing to mate and when a mother raises an infant. They live for about 30 years in the wild, and that brings us to just where you can find them in Costa Rica.
Where do sloths swim? They are found in a few of the national parks and reserves of Costa Rica, including:
Arenal Volcano National Park Sloth Sanctuary in La Fortuna – El Castillo
This park features a sanctuary for sloths and planted more than 300 Cecropia trees to ensure they had plenty of space and spots to make home.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Monte Verde
As Travel + Leisure explained, “Monteverde is well known for its wide variety of biodiversity. Within the misty looking trees, sleepy sloths hang around, so you’re likely to spot one while you explore the reserve’s natural wonders.”
Manuel Antonio National Park in Cantón de Aguirre
Home to more than one hundred different mammals (including sloths), this is among the most beautiful of national parks in the entire world. A good place for spotting sloth in water and trees, it is an ideal destination for those eager to visit Costa Rica and see sloths hold their breath while enjoying a dip.
So, now you know that the answer to questions like: can sloths swim, can a sloth heart rate be slower than normal and just where can you find a sloth.
And if this has made you wonder what animal can hold its breath the longest, that would not be the sloth. It is the sperm whale that can stay underwater and deep in the sea for more than 90 minutes at a time!
If you are more interested in spotting whales and sea creatures than sloths, Costa Rica is still a good choice, as is Turks & Caicos, Barbados, or St Barts, among other Caribbean locations with luxury rentals available.