Slow moving sloths and manatees have green algae growing on their fur/skin. Are there any other animals that have algae growth on them, and does the algae benefit the fitness of these animals?

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Source: Canadian Museum of Nature

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  • Is there anything to suggest there is a benefit to manatees? My boat has a layer of algae on it. – kmm Aug 16 at 21:48
  • @kmm 1: I seem to remember reading that the algae on manatees acted like a sunblock, but there were no references to this claim. Unfortunately, I cannot remember anymore where I read it either. – wanderweeer Aug 16 at 23:12

I don't know about manatees, but sloths have a symbiotic relationship with the moths living in their fur because the moths supplement the sloth's diet with additional nutrients via algae. Sloth moths grow and die in a sloth's fur, decomposing to provide nutrients for the algae. The sloth then eats the algae. What the moth gets out of this is that its larvae can feed on the sloth's poop, and when they grow up, they make a home in the sloth's fur again.

Here's an infograph summarizing the relationship:

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