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Overview

Brief Summary

Bradypus is a terrestrial mammal of the sloth family, which is often characterized by its slow-moving demeanor and coarse hair. Although Bradypus variegatus has similar features to other bradypodidae, as a species it can be clearly distinguished by the brown coloration along the “sides of its face and throat, prominent dark brown forehead, suborbital stripe outlining the ocular area of the face and shorter mandibular spout”(1). Found in the forest canopies of Central and South America, the brown-throated three-toed sloth feeds off of leaves and shoots, descending from the treetops every eight days to defecate(1). Home ranges vary in size from 0.5 to 9 hectares, and sloths are said to spend time in an average of 40 trees for every 5 hectares(2). A portion of Bradypus variegatus’ home range is passed on from mother to baby sloth for competition reduction. Mating season occurs annually before the start of the rainy season, and one offspring per litter is born after an estimated gestation period of 4-6 months(3).

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Comprehensive Description

Aptly named for its three distinct claws, the three-toed sloth is an unusual looking mammal best known for its sloth (slow) movements throughout its forest habitat. In terms of color and fur, Bradypus variegatus has grey-brown fur, which grows “ventral to dorsal, opposite than most mammals, providing quick rain runoff”(3). A finer layer of fur grows beneath for further insulation from the elements(3). Unusually, the sloth’s fur changes to a green tinged color during the rainy season because of the algae that grows in the grooves on its hairs; this provides further protection and camouflage from its predators(2). Males differ from females in that they have “an orange patch [of hair] that contains a brown stripe through the middle”(3) Bradypus variegatus has a small head, tail, and facial features as well as limited eyesight and hearing(1).

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Aptly named for its three distinct claws, the three-toed sloth is an unusual looking mammal best known for its sloth (slow) movements throughout its forest habitat. In terms of color and fur, Bradypus variegatus has grey-brown fur, which grows “ventral to dorsal, opposite than most mammals, providing quick rain runoff”(2). A finer layer of fur grows beneath for further insulation from the elements(2). Unusually, the sloth’s fur changes to a green tinged color during the rainy season because of the algae that grows in the grooves on its hairs; this provides further protection and camouflage from its predators. Males differ from females in that they have “an orange patch [of hair] that contains a brown stripe through the middle”(2). Bradypus variegatus has a small head, tail, and facial features as well as limited eyesight and hearing(1).

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Distribution

Range Description

B. variegatus ranges from Honduras in the north, through southern Central America. In South America, it ranges from Colombia into western and southern Venezuela, and south into Ecuador, eastern Peru and Bolivia, into Brazil and northern Argentina (where it is now considered to be extirpated). Its distribution overlaps with B. torquatus in the central part of the Atlantic forest (Hirsch and Chiarello unpublished data). In Brazil, the species currently occurs in forested areas of the Amazon, Atlantic forest, and Cerrado biomes. There are historical records of B. variegatus in the Caatinga biome (Moraes-Barros unpublished data 2010).
There are no confirmed records for B. variegatus in the Pantanal biome of Brazil, but the species might occur in the contact zones between this biome and the Amazon forest to the north. Additional field studies are necessary in order to properly define the current species distribution in the Cerrado, Caatinga and Pantanal.
The southernmost distribution of this sloth in Brazil was reported by Cabrera (1957) as the state of Rio Grande do Sul, which could, however, not be confirmed (Gardner 2007). It is historically absent from the state of Santa Catarina (Brazil) and northeastern Argentina; the southernmost confirmed record of the species is near Londrina, in the state of Paraná, Brazil, but today it is considered extinct in this state (Mikich and Bernils 2004). The last record from Argentina, was collected in Jujuy province and dates back to 1916 (Vizcaíno et al. 2006), but field studies specifically aiming at this species are lacking from this country. B. variegatus is found from sea level to at least 2,400 m asl (Ureña et al. 1986).
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Geographic Range

Brown-throated three-toed sloths are native to South America and southern Central America. Their geographic range includes Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela. Although once present in Argentina, it is now thought to be extinct.

Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )

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Brown-throated three-toed sloths can be found throughout Central and South America, ranging as far north as Honduras and as far south as Brazil(4). They are native to Nicaragua, Paraguay, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Argentina, Columbia, and Honduras, but their population density within each habitat varies(4). In Panama, for example there are an estimated 8.5 animals per hectare, whereas in Costa Rica, an estimated 9.9 dwell per hectare(4).

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

As indicated by their common, brown-throated three-toed sloths have brown coloration on their throat and head. Their coat consists of a layer of short, soft, and fine fur and a layer of thick, woolly fur. Algae often resides on outer layer, giving some individuals a greenish appearance. They have long forelimbs with three clawed-toes on each limb. They also have approximately 10 cervical vertebrate that enable them to rotate their necks up to 270 degrees. Their teeth are cylindrical and lack enamel. Similar to many ungulates, their stomachs are multi-compartmentalized, with intestinal microfauna that help digest cellulose from their exclusively vegetarian diets. Even as endotherms, brown-throated three-toed sloths have difficulty regulating their body temperature in cold environments and in cooler ambient temperatures. This is likely due to sparse muscle mass, their relatively small heart, and low-ranging heart rate. Adults range in mass from 3.49 to 5.19 kg, with an average of 4.34 kg. Average length is 60 cm, and they have a basal metabolic rate of 147 cm^3 oxygen/hour. Although size-dimorphism is not present in this species, males have a mid-dorsal speculum that is not present in females.

Range mass: 3.49 to 5.19 kg.

Average length: 60 cm.

Average basal metabolic rate: 147 cm^3 oxygen/hour.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes colored or patterned differently

  • Feldhamer, G., L. Drickamer, S. Vessey, J. Merritt. 2007. Mammalogy: Adaptation, Diversity, Ecology. Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Gilmore, D., C. Da Costa, D. Duarte. 2001. Sloth biology: an update on their physiological ecology, behavior and role as vectors of arthropods and arboviruses. Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, 34: 9-25.
  • Gilmore, D., C. Da-Costa, D. Duarte. 2000. An update on the physiology of two- and three-toed sloths. Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, 33: 129-146. Accessed February 22, 2011 at http://www.scielo.br/pdf/bjmbr/v33n2/3528c.pdf.
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Ecology

Habitat

Rio Negro-Rio San Sun Mangroves Habitat

This taxon occurs in the Rio Negro-Rio San Sun mangroves, which consists of a disjunctive coastal ecoregion in parts of Costa Rica, extending to the north slightly into Nicaragua and south marginally into Panama. Furthermore, this species is not necessarily restricted to this ecoregion. Mangroves are sparse in this ecoregion, and are chiefly found in estuarine lagoons and small patches at river mouths growing in association with certain freshwater palm species such as the Yolillo Palm (Raphia taedigera), which taxon has some saline soil tolerance, and is deemed a basic element of the mangrove forest here. These mangrove communities are also part of a mosaic of several habitats that include mixed rainforest, wooded swamps, coastal wetlands, estuarine lagoons, sand backshores and beaches, sea-grasses, and coral reefs.

The paucity of mangroves here is a result of the robust influx of freshwater to the coastline ocean zone of this ecoregion. Among the highest rates of rainfall in the world, this ecoregion receives over six metres (m) a year at the Nicaragua/ Costa Rica national border. Peak rainfall occurs in the warmest months, usually between May and September. A relatively dry season occurs from January to April, which months coincides with stronger tradewinds. Tides are semi-diurnal and have a range of less than one half metre.

Mangroves play an important role in trapping sediments from land that are detrimental to the development of both coral reefs and sea grasses that are associated with them. Mangrove species including Rhizopora mangle, Avicennia germinans, Laguncularia racemosa, Conocarpus erecta and R. harrisonii grow alone the salinity gradient in appropriate areas. Uncommon occurrences of Pelliciera rhizophorae and other plant species associated with mangroves include Leather ferns Acrostichum spp., which also invade cut-over mangrove stands and provide some protection against erosion. In this particular ecoregion, the mangroves are associated with the indicator species, freshwater palm, Raphia taedigera. Other mangrove associated species are Guiana-chestnut ( Pachira aquatica) and Dragonsblood Tree (Pterocarpus officinalis).

Reptiles include the Basilisk Lizard (Basiliscus basiliscus), Caiman (Caiman crocodilus), Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas), Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and Green Iguana (Iguana iguana). The beaches along the coast within this ecoregion near Tortuguero are some of the most important for nesting green turtles. The offshore seagrass beds, which are among the most extensive in the world, are a source of food and refuge for the endangered Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas). Several species of frogs  of the family Dendrobatidae are found in this mangrove ecoregion as well other anuran species and some endemic salamander taxa.

Mammal species found in this highly diverse ecoregion include: Lowland Paca (Agouti paca), primates such as Mantled Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata), Geoffrey's Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi), White-faced Capuchin (Cebus capucinus), Brown-throated Sloth (Bradypus variegatus), Silky Anteater (Cyclopes didactylus) and Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcintus).  Also found in this ecoregion are carnivores such as Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis),  Central American Otter (Lutra annectens), Jaguar (Panthera onca), Northern Racooon (Procyoon lotor), and Crab-eating Racoon (P. cancrivorus).

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
B. variegatus has been recorded from a number of forest types including seasonal mesic tropical forest, semi-deciduous forest (inland Atlantic Forest), cloud forest, and lowland tropical forest. It inhabits cacao (Theobroma cacao) plantations in Costa Rica (Vaughan et al. 2007). This sloth species produces one litter of one infant at intervals of at least 19 months (T. Plese pers. comm. 2010). Mating period varies depending on the year and geographical region, but occurs mainly in spring (i.e., from July to November in South America and from February to May in Central America).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Brown-throated three-toed sloths can be found in many new-world tropical forests, though some have also been discovered in semi-deciduous forests and subtropical lowlands and swamps. They live in the canopy for the majority of their lives and are capable swimmers. They seldom travel on the ground. They can be found at elevations ranging from sea level to 2400 m. Although not selective about the species of tree they choose to inhabit, they tend to seek out trees with crowns that are highly exposed to sunlight. This preference has been attributed to the sloths using sunlight to fulfill their thermoregulatory needs.

Range elevation: 0 to 2400 m.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest

Aquatic Biomes: rivers and streams

Wetlands: swamp

Other Habitat Features: riparian

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Bradypus variegatus is a tree dweller of the humid, subtropical areas of Central and South America(1). “The crowns of the trees in tropical forests are often thick with interlocking lianas and other vegetation and provide strong footholds for sloth travel, sleeping, and mating”(1). Because Bradypus spends the near entirety of its time hanging from tree limbs in the middle to upper layers of the canopy, it prefers more densely wooded areas, which allow for migration from one tree to the next. With that in mind, “Bradypus prefers trees with large crowns and selects them based on the amount of time the crowns are exposed to sun,” mostly because of its low body temperature and dependence on external sources of heat(1).

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Bradypus variegatus is a strict herbivore that feeds primarily on trees in the genus Cercropia (e.g., embauba). They consume various parts of the tree, including leaves, flowers, and fruits. Bradypus variegatus is a facultative drinker and receives most of its water from ingested plant materials.

Plant Foods: leaves; fruit; flowers

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Frugivore )

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The brown-throated sloth eats various leaves and foliage in its habitat, however the majority of its diet is supplied by Cecropia trees which also tend to be located in prime locations for such limited organisms (by clearings and riverbanks)(1). Most of the water these sloths need comes from the leaves that they eat(1). Bradypus variegatus’ hooked claws allow it to pull leaves towards its mouth(1).

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Brown-throated three-toed sloths have are mutualists with algae, which reside in the coats of sloths. The presence of algae confers a greenish tint to the outermost fur coat, which is hypothesized to function as camouflage. It has also been suggested that algae provides essential trace elements and nutrients. In exchange, algae receives shelter in the coats of their host and sunlight, as sloths prefer sections of sun-exposed canopy. Brown-throated three-toed sloths are primary prey for a number of vertebrate predators including harpy eagles and many species of felid; however, they do not make up a large portion of any one species' diet. Known parasites of this species include Leishmania and Pneumocystis carinii.

Ecosystem Impact: creates habitat

Mutualist Species:

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

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Predation

Brown-throated three-toed sloths are highly camouflaged and slow-moving, both of which help decrease risk of predation via decreased visibility. Major predators of this species include spectacled owls, harpy eagles and a variety of felid species. Brown-throated three-toed sloths descend from the canopy to defecate and urinate on the ground. Although they only descend from teh canopy once every 3 to 8 days, this behavior greatly increases vulnerability to predation.

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

  • Touchton, J., Y. Hsu, A. Palleroni. 2002. FORAGING ECOLOGY OF REINTRODUCED CAPTIVE-BRED SUBADULT HARPY EAGLES (HARPIA HARPYJA) ON BARRO COLORADO ISLAND, PANAMA. ORNITOLOGIA NEOTROPICAL, 13: 365–379.
  • Voirin, J., R. Kays, M. Lowman, M. Wikelski. 2009. Evidence for Three-Toed Sloth (Bradypus variegatus) Predation by Spectacled Owl (Pulsatrix perspicillata). Edentata, 8-10: 15-20.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Social interactions between Bradypus variegatus adults are relatively rare. However, communication between mothers and their young is significant, particularly in the form of vocalization. Vocalizations are also used to communicate with other conspecifics during breeding season, as females call out to attract a potential mate. Bradypus variegatus lack a ciliary muscle in their eyes and have very few ganglion cells and nerve fibers, which result in poor eyesight and visual acuity. Evidence suggests that vision functions optimally at low light intensities. Defecation and urination occur on the ground, and both have been suggested to function as a means of communicating with other conspecifics.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic ; chemical

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

In the wild, the lifespan of adult brown-throated three-toed sloths is typically between 30 and 40 years. There is no other information available regarding the lifespan of this species.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
30 to 40 years.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
30 to 40 years.

  • MORAES-BARROS, ., J. SILVA, J. MORGANTE. 2011. Morphology, molecular phylogeny, and taxonomic inconsistencies in the study of Bradypus sloths (Pilosa: Bradypodidae). Journal of Mammalogy, 92: 86-100.
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Reproduction

Brown-throated three-toed sloths are thought to be monogamous. Females vocalize to attract males when they are ready to mate. Females typically mate with the first male they encounter. Although it is unclear if they have a defined breeding season, evidence suggests mating occurs just prior to the rainy season. Copulation lasts 10 to 15 minutes and takes place in the female's tree, approximately 15 m above the ground. During copulation, the male positions himself behind the female. Once mating is complete, the male leaves shortly there after.

Mating System: monogamous

Once copulation is finished, males immediately leave and do not provide any parental care to young. Bradypus variegatus gives birth to a single offspring once a year. During gestation, which lasts for 5 to 8 months, the mother does not make any preparations, such as nest-building. After birth, neonates are held ventrally, which is thought to help provide protection for young, including attack from predators. Neonates weigh less than 1 kg at birth. Most individuals become independent once weaning is complete, which takes approximately 4 months. Females become reproductively mature by 3 years of age, and males become reproductively mature between 3 and 5 years of age, with an average of 4 years of age.

Breeding interval: Brown-throated three-toed sloths breed once yearly

Average number of offspring: 1.

Range gestation period: 5 to 8 months.

Average birth mass: less than 1 kg.

Average weaning age: 4 months.

Range time to independence: 2 to 4 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 3 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3 to 5 years.

Key Reproductive Features: year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); fertilization ; viviparous

Brown-throated three-toed sloths give birth on the ground or in trees. During birth, the mother pulls the infant between her hindlegs, and other sloths aid in the birthing process by cleaning the mother and infant and by ensuring that the infant doesn't fall. Mothers help young establish motor behavior, posture, learning development, and independent exploration in young. Paternal care is thought to be non-existent in this species.

Parental Investment: female parental care ; pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

  • Bezerra, B., A. Souto, L. Halsey, N. Schiel. 2007. Observation of brown-throated three-toed sloths: mating behaviour and the simultaneous nurturing of two young. Japan Ethological Societ, 26: 175–178.
  • Gilmore, D., C. Da-Costa, D. Duarte. 2000. An update on the physiology of two- and three-toed sloths. Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, 33: 129-146. Accessed February 22, 2011 at http://www.scielo.br/pdf/bjmbr/v33n2/3528c.pdf.
  • SOARES, C., R. CARNEIRO. 2002. SOCIAL BEHAVIOR BETWEEN MOTHERS ´ YOUNG OF SLOTHS Bradypus variegatus SCHINZ, 1825 (XENARTHRA: BRADYPODIDAE). Brazilian Journal of Biology, Volume 62, Issue 2: 249-252.
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Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Neck swivels 270 degrees: three-toed sloth
 

The head of the three-toed sloth swivels 270 degrees thanks to three extra cervical vertebrae.

         
  "Because the three-toed sloth has three extra cervical vertebrae than other mammals, including its close relative the two-toed sloth, it is able to turn its head 270 degrees, or three-quarters the way around." (Young 1999)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2011

Assessor/s
Chiarello, A., Moraes-Barros, N. & Plese, T.

Reviewer/s
Abba, A.M. & Superina, M.

Contributor/s

Justification
B. variegatus is listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution including a large part of the Amazon forest, presumed large population, its occurrence in a number of protected areas, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category. Recent phylogeographic studies reveal that B. variegatus from the Central American, Western Amazon and Atlantic forests constitute distinct and unique evolutionary units that are distinguishable by molecular and morphological traits.

History
  • 2006
    Least Concern
    (IUCN 2006)
  • 2006
    Least Concern
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Bradypus variegatus is classified as a species of least concern on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species. Although precise population trends are unknown, is has been estimated that densities ranging from 2.2 to 8.5 animals per hectare occur throughout their geographic range. Although some populations in the Brazilian Amazon are thought to be declining due to deforestation, there are no major threats to the long-term persistence of this species.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population
Population densities of B. variegatus have been estimated at 2.2 to 6.7 animals per hectare in the Brazilian Amazon (Queiroz 1995), 8.5 animals per hectare in Panama (Montgomery and Sunquist 1975), and 0.6 to 4.5 animals per hectare in the tropical dry forest of Colombia (Acevedo and Sanchez 2007). No demographic information is available from the remaining area of distribution. B. variegatus is commonly found in public squares, where densities can reach 12.5 animals per hectare (Manchester and Jorge 2009).

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
It appears that there are no major threats to B. variegatus at the global level. Nevertheless, some populations, especially in Colombia and Brazil, are declining due to deforestation leading to severe habitat degradation and fragmentation. Furthermore, they are hunted by local indigenous communities. Wild-caught individuals, especially offspring, are sold as pets to tourists in Colombia (Moreno and Plese 2006). This illegal trade is increasing and represents a cause of concern due to its impact on the wild populations.
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Predators of the brown-throated sloth include jaguars, harpy eagles, and anacondas(1). There are few other threats to the sloth aside from deforestation and humans trespassing on sloth habitat(7).

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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
B. variegatus is present in many protected areas. It is included in CITES Appendix II.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Bradypus variegatus on humans.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

There are no known positive effects of Bradypus variegatus on humans.

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Wikipedia

Brown-throated sloth

The brown-throated sloth (Bradypus variegatus) is a species of three-toed sloth found in the neotropical ecozone.[1][3] It is the most common of the four species of three-toed sloth, and is found in the forests of South and Central America.

Description[edit]

Male showing black patch between shoulders

The brown-throated sloth is of similar size and build to most other species of three-toed sloth, with both males and females being 42 to 80 centimetres (17 to 31 in) in total body length. The tail is relatively short, only 2.5 to 9 cm (1.0 to 3.5 in) long. Adults weigh from 2.25 to 6.3 kg (5.0 to 13.9 lb), with no significant size difference between males and females. Each foot has three fingers, ending in long, curved claws, which are 7 to 8 cm (2.8 to 3.1 in) long on the fore feet, and 5 to 5.5 cm (2.0 to 2.2 in) on the hind feet.[4]

The head is rounded, with a blunt nose and inconspicuous ears. As with other sloths, the brown-throated sloth has no incisor or canine teeth, and the cheek teeth are simple and peg-like. They have no gall bladder, cecum, or appendix.[4]

The brown-throated sloth has grayish-brown to beige-color fur over the body, with darker brown fur on the throat, the sides of the face, and the forehead. The face is generally paler in color, with a stripe of very dark fur running beneath the eyes.[4]

The guard hairs are very coarse and stiff, and overlie a much softer layer of dense under-fur. The hairs are unusual in lacking a central medulla, and have numerous microscopic cracks across their surfaces. These cracks are host to a number of commensal species of algae, including Rufusia pillicola, Dictyococcus bradypodis, and Chlorococcum choloepodis. The algae are generally absent in the hair of young sloths, and may also be absent in particularly old individuals, where the outer cuticle of the hair has been lost.[4] Sloth hair also harbours a rich fungal flora.[5]

Over parts of its range, the brown-throated sloth overlaps the range of Hoffmann's two-toed sloth. Where this overlap occurs, the three-toed sloth tends to be smaller and more numerous than its relative, being more active in moving through the forest and maintaining more diurnal activity.[6]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The brown-throated sloth is the most widespread and common of the three-toed sloths. It is found from Honduras in the north, through Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama into Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and eastern Peru.[2] It is probably not found north of the Amazon Rainforest or east of the Rio Negro, although its similarity to the pale-throated sloth found in these regions has led to some confusion in the past.[4]

It is found in many different kinds of environments, including evergreen and dry forests and in highly perturbed natural areas. It is generally found from sea level to 1,200 m (3,900 ft), although some individuals have been reported from much higher elevations.

Behaviour and diet[edit]

Brown-throated sloths sleep 15 to 18 hours every day and are active for only a few brief periods, which may be during either the day or night. Although they can walk along the ground, and even swim, they spend most of their lives in the high branches of trees, descending once every eight days or so to defecate in the soil. Adult animals are solitary, except when raising young, and males have been observed to fight one another using their fore claws.[4]

Brown-throated sloths inhabit the high canopy of the forest, where they eat young leaves from a wide range of different trees. They do not travel far, with home ranges of only around 0.5 to 9 ha (1.2 to 22.2 acres), depending on the local environment. Within a typical, 5-hectare (12-acre) range, a brown-throated sloth will visit around 40 trees, and may specialise on one particular species, even spending up to 20% of its time in a single specific tree. Thus, although the species are generalists, individual sloths may feed on a relatively narrow range of leaf types.[4]

Brown-throated sloth feeding

In addition to the algae in their fur, brown-throated sloths also live commensally with a species of moth, Cryptoses choloepi, which lives in their fur, and lays its eggs in the dung.[7] Jaguars and harpy eagles are among the few natural predators of the brown-throated sloth. The yellow-headed caracara has been observed to forage for small invertebrates in the fur of the sloths, apparently without the sloth being disturbed by the attention.[8]

The female of the species is known to emit a loud, shrill scream during the mating season to attract males. Its a cry sounds like "ay ay", much like that of a woman screaming. The male can be identified by a black stripe surrounded by orange fur on its back between the shoulders.

Reproduction[edit]

Studies of the brown-throated sloth indicate that mating is most common between January and March in at least the northern parts of its range, but this may vary elsewhere. Gestation lasts at least seven months, and the single young is born fully furred and clawed. Young sloths cling to the mother's underside for five months or more, even though they are fully weaned after just four to five weeks.[9]

The female's mammary glands do not store significant quantities of milk as most other mammals do, since the lactating infant sloth remains attached to the nipple at all times, and consumes the milk as soon as it is generated.[10] The young begin to take solid food as early as four days after birth, initially licking particles of food from their mother's mouths. This process apparently allows them to quickly identify edible leaves, and young sloths typically have the same preferences for leaf types as their mothers.[4]

Brown-throated sloths have lived for at least three years in captivity.

Subspecies[edit]

There are seven recognized subspecies of the brown-throated sloth, although these are not all readily distinguishable:[1][11]

The closest living relative of the species is the pale-throated sloth, which has a very similar appearance, except for the color of the fur around the throat. The two species are estimated to have diverged just 400,000 years ago, whereas their ancestors diverged from the maned sloth over seven million years ago.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Gardner, A. L. (2005). "Order Pilosa". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 100–101. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ a b Moraes-Barros, N., Chiarello, A. & Plese, T. (2014). "Bradypus variegatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2014-07-07. 
  3. ^ Gardner, Alfred L. (2007). "Suborder Folivora". In Gardner, Alfred L. Mammals of South America, Volume 1: Marsupials, Xenarthrans, Shrews, and Bats. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 157–168 (p. 161). ISBN 978-0-226-28240-4 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Hayssen, V. (2010). "Bradypus variegatus (Pilosa: Bradypodidae)". Mammalian Species 42 (1): 19–32. doi:10.1644/850.1. 
  5. ^ Higginbotham S, Wong WR, Linington RG, Spadafora C, Iturrado L, Arnold AE. (2014). "Sloth hair as a novel source of fungi with potent anti-parasitic, anti-cancer and anti-bacterial bioactivity". PLoS One 9 (1): e84549. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084549. PMC 3893167. PMID 24454729. open access publication - free to read
  6. ^ Dickman, Chris (1993). Macdonald, David, ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. p. 777. 
  7. ^ Waage, J.K. & Montgomery, G.G. (1976). "Cryptosis choloepi: a coprophagous moth that lives on a sloth". Science 193 (4248): 157–158. doi:10.1126/science.193.4248.157. PMID 17759254. 
  8. ^ Krakauer, A.H. & Krakauer, T.H. (1999). "Foraging of yellow-headed caracaras in the fur of a three-toed sloth". Journal of Raptor Research 33 (3): 270. 
  9. ^ Taube, E. et al. (2001). "Reproductive biology and postnatal development in sloths, Bradypus and Choloepus: review with original data from the field (French Guiana) and from captivity". Mammal Review 31 (3–4): 173–188. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2907.2001.00085.x. 
  10. ^ Mirsky, Steve (2009). "The Bradypus Bunch". Scientific American 300 (5): 34. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0509-34. 
  11. ^ Anderson, R.P. & Handley, C.O. Jr. (2001). "A new species of three-toed sloth (Mammalia: Xenarthra) from Panamá, with a review of the genus Bradypus". Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 114 (1): 1–33.  PDF copy
  12. ^ Barros, M.C., et al. (2003). "Phylogenetic analysis of 16S mitochondrial DNA data in sloths and anteaters". Genetics and Molecular Biology 26 (1): 5–11. doi:10.1590/S1415-47572003000100002. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Louise H. Emmons and Francois Feer, 1997 – Neotropical Rainforest Mammals, A Field Guide.
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