Do you know which animal spends its life upside down? In contrast to the acrobatic antics of the monkeys and apes, sloths move about the tree-tops in very slow motion. They hang underneath the branches form hooked claws of both the fingers and spend most of their lives in this upside-down position.
They eat, sleep, mate and even give birth to their young upside-down. There are two interesting features of a sloth related to its upside-down way of life. The first is its ability to turn its head almost right round to compensate for its reversed position.
The second is the way its hair lies in the opposite direction to that of most animals. The sloth’s runs from its belly round to its back, and this ensures that heavy tropical showers run straight off.
Why does the anteater walk on its knuckles?
If you look closely at the feet of the Giant Anteater at the bottom of the opposite page, you will notice that they look slightly odd. The anteaters are animals with a specialized diet, feeding on termites, ants and their larvae.
Specialized feeders usually have special features. The anteaters have strong claws on the front feet to break open termite nests, and a long narrow mouth with an equally long sticky tongue, to probe around and lick up the insects.
It seems that the anteater walks on the knuckles of its front feet to protect the curved claws and to keep them sharp.
Which animals are armoured?
The armadillos are well protected by a shell of bony plates covering the back and sides of the body. The skin of the head, tail and legs in also thickened and scaly so that the animals have an impressive, heavily armored look.
The man shell is divided across the back into number of bands allowing some degree of movement. The number of bands varies in the different species of armadillo.
Armadillos are strong burrowers and can soon disappear from sight into the ground if alarmed. One species is able to roll itself up completely into a ball.
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