Reaktion. (Animal). Jan. 2024. 192p. ISBN 9781789147995. pap. $22. NAT HIST
Of all of the animals included in this publisher’s “Animal” series thus far, sloths may be having the biggest moment; hedgehogs and llamas are the closest contenders. Rauch (English, Univ. of North Carolina, Charlotte; Dolphin) begins this book with two-toed and three-toed sloths. He describes the distinct physiological and ecological adaptations behind the traits that immediately spring to mind: slow and upside-down. He also probes how they evolved from the gigantic ice age ground sloths prevalent throughout North and South America. Discovery of their fossils predated that of dinosaurs and sparked the scientific imagination of late 18th-century explorers. He conducts a cultural analysis of the place that both ancient and modern sloths occupied in the public imagination and what qualities they came to symbolize. That coverage spans right up to the present adoption of sloths as a mascot for self-care and relaxation. Whether their current popularity will be enough to stir action to preserve them against loss of habitat and poaching is explored in a final chapter.
VERDICT This compact volume nicely covers the past, present, and future of sloths for readers who have fallen in love with them based on popular culture depictions.
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