We’re back! Hello! And boy, have we missed you. We got your messages, and we appreciated each one. It makes us happy that you want to see art with science in fewer than 300 words.
We have plenty new in store, from incredible new artists to happy new series and plenty more we’ve never tried before. For now, welcome back! With a story about a welcome back! No, not YOUR back! You have a spectacular back, but sometimes it’s not all about you. Sometimes it’s about sloths.
Sloths! Those long-clawed trunk huggers who always look like they want to ask us a friendly question have so many creatures living on their backs that researchers started thinking of them as slow-moving farmers—and of their slothy bodies as the farms.
Sloth hairs have special cracks that hold rainwater to irrigate the rolling hills of sloth backs. Within those tresses, fungi gobble detritus, arthropods slurp secretions, bacteria battle diseases. Plus, delicious green algae thrive in the cracks of all that soaked fur. You know who loves delicious green algae? Sloth moths, that’s who!
They tuck back their wings and bustle around sloth manes like a full staff of farm hands, tending algae like row crops, fertilizing it with nitrogenous moth poops. The sloths then harvest their own fur algae for supper, because fur algae are more nutritious than a canopy leaf salad. Also, with restaurants growing on their backs, sloths can hang loose from any ole trees—no need to specialize.
There’s more! Fur algae turns sloths a greenish color, which helps them to hide in tree canopies and keeps them (and the living worlds on their backs) safe from Sloth Mortal Enemy #1: the harpy eagle. Food and a force field!
Moth poop keeps fur algae going strong, and sloth poop saves the day for moth babies. When sloths have their weekly BMs, they lumber to the ground to do it. Along with their #2s, they drop mama moths, who lay eggs only in sloth dooks.
Sloth poop is a baby sloth moth’s favorite (and only) food. After eating all the dookie they can, sloth moths pupate on the ground, emerge as adults, and fly up to the canopy, looking for their own unhurried hairy houses in sloth fur.
See how nice a welcome back can be?