Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads

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#StevesLibrary: Sloths!

Regular readers of my blog will know that I read quite a few popular science books, I’ve got a few lined up for the coming months to keep me busy throughout the Christmas period so expect a number of reviews come January. For now, it’s time to review a book by the great William Hartston on the most unusual of mammals, the sloth. Sloths are one of the favourite animals of my friend and author Lucy Cooke who founded the Sloth Appreciation Society. You can find a review of her charming book titled The Unexpected Truth About Animals here.

Back to Hartston’s book, unfortunately sloths have been suffering somewhat of a public image problem but this has been slowly changed over the past couple of decades. Yes sloths are slow but they’re perfectly adapted for a life in the trees. It doesn’t help that in some languages they have a less than flattering name (the same can be said for English) but sloths are gaining more and more admirers each year. We are also learning lots of new and wonderful things about the 6 species of sloth that are still with us, despite the fact that some species are critically endangered.

Hartston reveals the fascinating natural history of sloths such as the discovery of prehistoric ground sloths to modern pygmy sloths in Panama, investigating their evolution. Hartston also looks at how our views of sloths have changed over time, from the early European explorers in southern/central America to the present day. Along the journey, the reader also has the opportunity to explore the science of sloths and aids to help reverse centuries of injustice. It very much reminds me of one of the books in the Animal series from Reaktion Books due to it’s content.

The book is very well researched and I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite being a herpetologist I’m always happy to read books on natural history, geology and other such subjects that take my interest. I thoroughly recommend Sloths! to anyone who loves the natural world.

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