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Exotic Animals with Julie Scardina

The Martha Stewart Show, April 2008

Two-Toed Sloth
Sloths, whose closest relatives are anteaters and armadillos, are extremely slow-moving animals. Their slow speed, along with their nocturnal lifestyle, makes them very hard to notice. It is believed that sloths obtained their common name from one of the biblical seven deadly sins.

Sloths spend their entire lives hanging upside down in trees, eating, sleeping, mating, and even giving birth in an upside down position. Because their body is designed to hang upside down, they are physically incapable of truly walking; they basically crawl when on the ground, usually on the way from one tree to another. They can, however, swim extremely well. Another adaptation to life upside down is that their hair has a natural part on their belly (as opposed to their back) that allows water, in frequent rainstorms, to run off.

Sloths have a very unusual symbiotic relationship with algae. They have specialized hair that encourages algae growth, which aids in camouflaging the animal. It is also believed that sloths will both eat some of the algae and absorb some of the algae's nutrients through their skin.

They also have an extremely slow metabolism and have the lowest variable body temperature of any mammal. Unlike most mammals, their body temperature and metabolism fluctuate throughout the day according to environmental temperatures -- ranging from 24 to 33 degrees Celsius. Because of their slow metabolism, it is necessary for sloths to defecate and urinate only once a week.

Giant African Millipedes
"Millipede" means "thousand-legger" but they actually have only between 200 and 300 legs. Millipedes, of which there are more than 65,000 species, are nutrient-recyclers -- essentially they make dirt. The largest giant African millipede on record was 13 inches long.

Python
Pythons are considered primitive snakes, differing from many other species by having two functioning lungs and vestigial, or leftover, hind limbs. These vestigial limbs look like spurs on either side of the cloaca.

Burmese python populations are suffering from a variety of factors, including an ever-expanding human population and loss of habitat. These large snakes are also hunted extensively for their skins, which are used in the leather trade.

Ibis
Ibises, an ancient species with fossil records going back 60 million years, have curved, slender bills that they use to probe into shallow water, mud, or grass when foraging. They are gregarious birds that live, travel, and breed in flocks. In flight, they form diagonal lines or V formations. This formation decreases wind resistance for trailing birds. When the leader of the pack tires, it falls to the back of the formation and another ibis takes its place at the front.

Roseate Spoonbill
Just like flamingoes, their pink color comes from the food they eat. Both male and female roseate spoonbills share the responsibility of incubating eggs, and their beautiful feathers are used to make ladies' hats and fans.

Special Thanks
Special thanks to animal ambassador Julie Scardina for sharing these lovely animals with us.