As a sloth lover, we are sure you see lots of pictures of sloths. While basically all of the pictures of sloths are amazing because the sloths are so cute and interesting, you have probably seen that some sloths look very different from others. This might bring about some questions?
- Sloths Reproduction
- Sloth Breeding
- How Do Sloths Reproduce
- How Often Do Sloths Mate
- How Often Do Sloths Reproduce
- How Do Sloths Reproduce
Native to Central and South America, sloths eat, sleep, mate, give birth and raise their young while hanging upside-down in trees. The slowest mammals in existence, they can walk on the ground but only with extremely awkward and unwieldy movements. They’re much better swimmers. Some of their adaptations differ. They are solitary mammals and just so happen to provide a habitat for a multitude of other organisms. For instance, did you know a single sloth may be home to moths, beetles, cockroaches, fungi, and algae? Scroll down for a fun list of 15 more surprising sloth facts. — Global Animal. Sloths are clumsy on land but are great swimmers. Sloths breed at any time during the year. The male leaves after mating, and the female bears usually one young within five to six months. She carries this offspring with her for up to a year. During this time, the young sloth develops a taste for the leaves on which its mother feeds. Maned Three-Toed Sloth. The maned three-toed sloth or the Bradypus torquatus is a type of sloth which attains a length of about 50 cm and weighs around 4.5 kg. These sloths have small heads, eyes, and ears. Their small tail remains hidden beneath the fur. Everybody loves sloths, and whenever we talk about sloths we have to remember that the two living kinds (Bradypus – the four species of three-toed sloth – and Choloepus – the two species of.
“What are the different species of sloths?”
“How are those species different?”
We’re going to spend some time discussing those different species so that you can become the sloth expert you really want to be.
Two-toes or three?
So, generally scientist designate 6 different species of sloths divided into 2 different varieties:
- Maned sloth (Bradypus torquatus)
- Pale-throated sloth (Bradypus tridactylus)
- Brown-throated sloth (Bradypus variegatus)
- Pygmy three-toed sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus)
- Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth (Choloepus didactylus)
- Hoffman’s two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni)
All the Sloths!
There are some things that all sloths share. All sloths are adorable, of course, but beyond that we know that all sloths come from the same clade (a group of animals descended from the same ancient ancestor). The clade that sloths are part of is Xenartha, which also includes some other “strange” animals such as armadillos and anteaters.
Specifically, sloths are part of the suborder the Folivora. Both types of sloth live in the tropical rainforests of Latin America (no sloths are found in the wild in any other part of the world). Their habitat is more specifically in the trees where both types of sloths feed almost exclusively on leaves, though fruit is sometimes part of their diet and even some carnivorous habits have been observed.
Most species of sloth are about the same size, though there is some variance, and they all have bodies adapted for their tree-bound lifestyle. The interesting thing though is that three-toed sloths and two-toed sloths are actually pretty distant cousins. So, while prehistoric sloths lived on the ground, it wasn’t that eventually one variety of sloth became adapted to living in trees and modern sloths evolved from that one ancient tree sloth. What actually happened so totally different lines of ancient sloth adapted to live in trees and overtime those sloths became more and more like each other. This is known as convergent evolution and it’s a rare and remarkable event in evolutionary biology.
However, despite having evolved similarly, the two types of sloths to have important differences.
The three-toed sloths are designated as part of the Bradypodidae family and of the genus Bradypus. They are different from the two-toed sloths not only because of the number of toes, but other physical aspects as well. Namely, the three-toed sloths have shorter hair, especially on their face, and a shorter snout, which gives them more of an appearance of having a human-like head with a nose and a mouth, which often looks like it’s smiling.
Another physical difference is that three-toed sloths have extra vertebrae in their spine. This is strange because almost all mammals only have 7 vertebrae. This difference allows them to turn their heads almost completely around, like this guy here:
Males and female sloths look different in most three-toed sloth species (the maned sloth being the exception), with the males having a colored patch on their back:
Three-toed sloths are the slower of the two varieties, and they may sometimes spend an entire day without moving. This might seem like a disadvantage, but scientists have observed that sloth predators prey on two-toed sloths more often than their three-toed cousins. Thus, that slowness actually protects the three-toed sloths. (See our article: Why Are Sloths So Slow? How Slow Are Sloths?)
Three-toed sloths’ diets are somewhat more particular eaters. They almost only eat the leaves of the cecropia tree. This probably is the reason why they are even more docile than their two-toed sloths.
Reproduction is one of the main ways in which three-toed sloths are distinct from their cousins. Three-toed sloths only mate during August and September and they generally only mate with one other sloth during that time. Two-toed sloths, as we will learn, are a bit more libertine.
The two species of two-toed sloths are part of the family Megalonychidae and the genus Choloepus, a totally distinct family and genus from the three-toed sloth. The Hoffman’s two-toed sloth has a light colored throat. The Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth has a darker color fur on its throat.
The fur of two-toed sloth is different from their three-toed cousins in that the Hoffman’s and Linnaeus’s sloth have longer hair, especially around the abdomen. Also, on a near microscopic level the two-toed sloths have long grooves along their hair, which is different from the fur on the three-toed sloth that have tiny transverse sloths. This can lead to the three-toed sloths having more green algae in their fur.
Sex and reproduction are very different for the two-toed sloths. The sex ratio of the population is very different. There are 11 females born for every male. This means that in order for everyone to have a chance to reproduce the males mate with multiple females. However, females also tend to mate with multiple males. Furthermore, rather than only hooking up during a specific mating season, two-toed sloths are always down to fornicate any time of the year.
That might sound like fun, but it balances out. While the three-toed sloths have a pregnancy period of only 6 months (compared to 9 months for humans), two-toed sloths have a pregnancy that lasts an entire year!
Range of Sloth Species
Brown-throated three-toed sloth (B. variegatus): Honduras to northern Argentina;
Pale-throated three-toed sloth (B. tridactylus): northern South America;
Maned sloth (B. torquatus): southeastern Brazil;
Pygmy three-toed sloth (B. pygmaeus): Isla Escudo de Veraguas, in Panama
Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth (C. didactylus):the Amazon basin.
Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth (C. hoffmanni): from Honduras to the northern coast of South America, and separately in the western part of the Amazon rainforest.
Sloths are tree-dwelling mammals that live in the rainforests of South and Central America. In this article, which is part of our Rainforest Animals series, we’ll look at the sloth’s life and habitat, and learn where it fits within the rainforest ecosystem. At the end is a list of sloth facts for kids.
Watch the videos further down the page to see sloths in the wild!
Sloth Facts At-A-Glance
- Type of Animal: Mammal
- Order: Pilosa
- Number of Sloth Families: 2. Two-toed sloths (Megalonychidae) & three-toed sloths (Bradypodidae).
- Number of Sloth Species: 6 (see below for descriptions & conservation status)
- Where Found: Rainforests of Central and South America
Sloths are arboreal (tree-dwelling) mammals that live in the rainforests of South and Central America. They are named after the deadly sin of sloth (which means laziness) because they move extremely slowly.
Sloths move so slowly that algae (plant-like organisms) grow in their fur! This is actually beneficial to sloths, as it gives them a slightly greenish color, helping them to blend in with their surroundings!
Sloths spend most of their lives in the trees, where they hang upside-down from branches and vines. Sloths eat, sleep, mate and even give birth while hanging around in the trees!
Due to the design of their feet and long, curved claws, sloths can hang upside down with little or no effort. This actually makes them a less appealing target for human hunters because even when shot, sloths remain hanging in the trees.
Sloths are mostly nocturnal, and sleep during the day.
6 Species, 2 Families
There are six species of sloth, divided between two families: two-toed sloths (Megalonychidae) and three-toed sloths (Bradypodidae).
You can tell the difference between the two families by counting how many ‘fingers’ they have. Two-toed sloths have two fingers; three-toed sloths have three.
Perhaps they should have been named two and three fingered sloths; both families of sloths have three toes on their hind legs!
Two-toed Sloths (Megalonychidae family)
There are two species of two-toed sloth:
- Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth (Choloepus didactylus) (Conservation status: Least Concern)
- Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni) (Conservation status: Least Concern)
Two-toed sloths are slightly larger and faster-moving than three-toed sloths. They are around 60 cm – 70 cm (24 – 28″) in length, and weigh about 6 kg (13 pounds).
Three-Toed Sloths (Bradypodidae family)
There are four living species of three-toed sloth:
- Brown-throated sloth (Bradypus variegatus) (Conservation status: Least Concern)
- Maned sloth (Bradypus torquatus) (Conservation status: Vulnerable)
- Pale-throated sloth (Bradypus tridactylus) (Conservation status: Least Concern)
- Pygmy three-toed sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus) (Conservation status: Critically Endangered)
Three-toed sloths are smaller and slower than two-toed sloths. They grow to around 45 cm – 60 cm (18 – 24″) in length and weigh around 4 kg (9 pounds). Although their tails are longer than those of the two-toed sloths, they are still quite short, reaching 6–7 cm (2–3 in) in length.
Watch this video to see a sloth in its natural habitat:
Sloth Facts: What Do Sloths Look Like?
Sloths have fairly small, thin bodies with short tails. Their heads are small and round, with short snouts, small ears, and large eyes surrounded by dark masks. The shape of their mouths gives them a permanent smiling expression!
Sloths have long, curved claws. These can grow to be up to 3 – 4 inches (8 – 10 cm) long. Sloths use their claws to climb trees and to hook themselves onto branches.
The long limbs and claws of a sloth are designed for hanging and climbing, not for walking on the ground. Sloths have great difficulty getting around when on the floor, as this video shows …
A Living Habitat!
The sloth’s long, shaggy hair is home to algae, small plants and bugs such as moths and beetles. This is due to a combination of the sloth’s slow speed and the warm, damp climate of the rainforest.
Sometimes the sloth will even lick algae and plants off of its fur as a snack!
What Do Sloths Eat?
Sloths are folivores (specialist leaf-eaters), and also eat buds and shoots. Their bodies and lifestyles reflect their diet. Leaves contain very little energy and are also low in nutrients. As a result, sloths have large and complex stomachs, which contain bacteria that break down the leaves.
It can take a sloth a month to completely digest a meal! Sloths climb down from the trees in order to urinate and defecate (poop!) only about once a week. The contents of a sloth’s stomach account for as much as two-thirds of its body weight.
Because leaves contain very little energy, sloths have a low metabolism (the rate at which energy is used by an organism).
How Do Sloths Reproduce
Two-toed sloths have been observed eating insects, lizards and birds in addition to plant matter.
How Fast (Slow?!?) Is A Sloth?
Casino movie clips free. Sloths move extremely slowly, only managing to cover about 6 – 8 feet (1.8 – 2.4 meters) per minute.
As a (not very scientific) comparison, walking at your normal speed you’d probably be moving at about 275 feet (84 meters) per minute. That’s close to the length of a standard soccer / football pitch.
So even when walking you’re about 39 times faster than a sloth!
Sloths spend most of their time either eating or sleeping. In the wild, sloths sleep between 9 and 15 hours a day.
Can Sloths Swim?
They may not be very good on the ground, but sloths are good swimmers. They use a lazy, doggy-paddle stroke to propel themselves through the water.
How Often Do Sloths Mate
Watch the amazing video below to see a sloth swimming:
Due to their low metabolism, sloths have the lowest body temperature of any mammal, and can’t shiver to keep warm.
Sloths are hunted by several rainforest animals, including jaguars, ocelots, harpy eagles, and green anacondas.
It’s much easier for a predator to spot prey that is moving. Because sloths spend so much time either motionless or moving very slowly, they often avoid detection.
Sloths are very vulnerable when on the ground and tend to spend as little time as possible out of the safety of the trees.
How Often Do Sloths Reproduce
When cornered or feeling threatened, sloths will lash out with their long front claws.
Additional Sloth Facts
How Do Sloths Reproduce
- Thousands of years ago, giant sloths roamed North America. These elephant-sized animals became extinct about 10,000 years ago.
- Sloths eat, sleep, and live most of their lives hanging upside down.
- If a sloth feels threatened it might put on a ‘burst of speed’ and travel at 13 ft. (4 m) per minute.
- Sloths are mainly nocturnal, but some are also known to be diurnal (active during the day).
Sloth Activities For Kids
- Think about what you can do to help stop deforestation and save the homes of rainforest animals. Write a short story about what you can to do to help save sloths’ homes.
- Gather some friends for a sloth race! Whoever crosses the finish line last is the winner!
- Draw a picture of a sloth hanging out in the rainforest canopy. Don’t forget to include the leaves, flower buds and twigs that sloths like to eat!
- Check out the Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica.
Sloth Facts For Kids Conclusion
We hope that you have enjoyed learning about sloths. They are just one of the many animals who call the rainforest their home. Now you’re a sloth expert, why not find out about more rainforest animals? Visit our Main Rainforest Animals Page to get started!
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