Most of us have read The Tortoise and the Hare, a children’s fable that tells us patience is the key to success. Spoiler alert: The tortoise wins the race against the hare, teaching us not to underestimate the tortoise’s careful, unhurried pace.
While this story may be fiction, the slowest animal in the world deserves some recognition. Instead of talking about the cheetah’s fast pace, let’s take a look at some animals that share one thing in common: a slow and steady pace. And the coolest part? These animals inhabit different climates and ecosystems, from the rainforests to the oceans.
Want to get to know the slowest animal in the world? Here are seven, from sloths to koalas.
The Slowest Animals in the World
1. Three-Toed Sloths
When you think of the slowest animal in the world, you probably think of sloths. Today, sloths have become a meme, and many people often compare themselves to a sloth when they move slowly or are feeling lazy. And it’s true: Sloths are slow.
Specifically, the three-toed sloths are located in Central America are the slowest animal in the world. They enjoy the tropical weather and hardly move, sleeping for about 15 to 20 hours every day. And they remain in the trees because, on land, they have no way of escaping predators. To defend themselves, they bite or claw—but they can’t run.
However, three-toed sloths do have the ability to turn their heads about 270 degrees. They’re also surprisingly great swimmers, with long arms that help propel them through rivers in the rainforest.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), sloth populations are dependent on tropical rainforests, but tropical rainforests are at risk of deforestation. As rainforests become threatened by deforestation—the process of cutting and burning trees that release large quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere—sloths can lose their shelter and food sources.
2. Giant Galápagos Tortoise
Of course, this list includes the tortoise, the main character in Aesop’s famous fable. These giant tortoises are reptiles, and they can live to be over 100 years old. They’re also the world’s largest tortoises, with some reaching more than 500 pounds.
Depending on where giant tortoises are born, they can have either a dome or saddleback shell. And yes, they’re slow-moving. These reptiles are living the life: They graze on grass and leaves, take the sun, and rest for about 16 hours every day.
According to the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, Galápagos tortoises move at a rate of 0.16 miles per hour. Meanwhile, most humans walk at an average speed of 2.8 miles per hour. These tortoises also have a slow metabolism; therefore, they have the ability to store water. Specifically, they can survive up to an entire year without eating or drinking.
Unfortunately, these tortoises are vulnerable, meaning they’re at high risk of extinction in the wild.
Manatees are cow-like sea creatures, and they move like mermaids. While they live in the water, they’re mammals, so they need to come up for air. Usually, active manatees come to the surface every 2 to 4 minutes, but they can hold their breath for quite some time—up to 24 minutes. Plus, adult manatees sleep underwater for 10 to 12 hours a day.
They’re typically slow-moving, often moving at a rate of 5 miles per hour. But, they can be fast swimmers, swimming at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour—but only in short bursts.
4. Slow Loris
Slow Lorises look like timid creatures. They sleep in trees and love tropic areas similar to the sloth. They tend to live in Southern Asia or Western Indonesia. And they even sleep with their heads between their legs!
These creatures move at a pace of 1.18 miles per hour—but they’re known to speed up when it’s time to strike prey. Slow lorises also have a slow metabolism, but not as slow as a sloth’s. Plus, they even have the ability to stay still for long periods of time. They typically use their speed only when they see food. Otherwise, they’re very tame.
Not only are these creatures slow-moving, but they also have a slow rate of development: They reproduce once every 12 to 18 months.
Koalas are Australian—and they’re super cute! But believe it or not, they’re not bears, despite being referred to as koala bears. They’re marsupials, they’re mainly nocturnal, and they predominantly feed on eucalyptus leaves.
Because koalas live in trees, they’re actually fast at climbing and can move at a rate of 20 miles per hour. However, this doesn’t happen often. The koala’s diet actually doesn’t provide much energy, so they need to conserve it. That’s why they rarely move fast—and why they spend most of their days sleeping. They can sleep from 18 to 22 hours at a time.
Unfortunately, like many other animals on this list, koalas are vulnerable, and their population is decreasing.
6. Banana Slug
Banana slugs are one of the slowest moving creatures to date—moving at a rate of 6.5 inches per minute. And yes, banana slugs resemble bananas, with long, yellow bodies. They can grow up to 9 inches long, which means the banana slug is the second-largest slug in the world.
To move, banana slugs use their slime. They expand and contract their single foot, leaving a trail of slime in their path to glide over seamlessly. The trail also doubles as a protectant: The slime slows down predators and even poisons them when ingested.
7. Sea Anemone
Additionally, there are over 1,000 sea anemone species found in the oceans, and their size can vary. Some can be as small as half an inch while others can be six feet across.
And as you can assume, they’re slow-moving. The anemone can crawl on its side, moving at a rate of just 4 centimeters (about 1.5 inches) per hour. Luckily, these creatures aren’t endangered, but they are threatened by pollution and human activity.
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