Found in the tropical forest canopies of Central America and northern South America, including portions of Brazil and Peru.
Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )
Two-toed sloths have been called the slowest animals on earth. Ranging in length from 21 to 29 inches, Choloepus didactylus is roughly the size and shape of a small dog. The body is composed of a short neck (only 6-7 vertebrae) with four long limbs of equal length, ending in two curved claws. The head is short and flat, with a snub nose, rudimentary ears, and large eyes.
Choloepus didactylus are covered in long brownish-grey hair that curves from stomach to back, opposite that of most mammals. A unique feature of this fur is that each strand has grooves which collect algae, giving the sloth a greenish tint and camouflaging it from predators.
The teeth of the two-toed sloth are small, simple molars that are continously growing but constantly ground down by the mastication of food. To compensate for a lack of sharp teeth, Choloepus didactylus has hardened lips which act to shear and crop leaves.
Range mass: 4 to 8 kg.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Habitat and Ecology
There is few information on the diet of wild individuals (Chiarello 2008). A rather unusual observation in the Amazon of north-eastern Peru recorded an adult individual descending to the forest floor to feed on a human latrine (Heymann et al. 2011).
Choloepus didactylus is strictly arboreal, staying high in the canopy of the tropical rain forests, and maintaining a range of about 10-acres.
Terrestrial Biomes: rainforest
Choloepus didactylus feed primarily on vegetation, including berries, leaves, small twigs, and fruits, cropping the leaves with their lips. On occasion sloths have been known to eat insects and other small prey. They obtain water from vegetation and by lapping dew.
- Preyed upon by harpy eagles, anacondas, jaguars, ocelots and, of course, humans; excellent camouflage and slow movement help them elude predators
Preyed upon by harpy eagles, anacondas, jaguars, ocelots and of course humans. Excellent camouflage and slow movement help them elude predators
Several Species of pyramid moths occasionally inhabit fur (far more common on bradypus
By defecating at the base of their host cecropia tree, the sloth provides the tree with fertilizer.
Diets and Feeding
Folivores or generalized herbivores — will eat leaves, twigs, buds, fruit, and occasionally rodents, and insects
Favorite trees (*indicates species favored by all species)
Seldom drink. Moisture is obtained from plant matter and dew on leaves
Metabolic rate is only about 40 to 60% of that of other mammals this size (Gilmore 2000)
Food has low energy content — may contain poisonous compounds that require low rate of absorption for detoxification
Young leaves digested at highest rates. Only mature leaves of certain species can be digested quickly enough to avoid starvation
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Status: captivity: 27.8 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Females of this species of sloth reach sexual maturity at 3 years of age, males reach sexual maturity between 4 and 5. After a gestation period of six months, females give birth to one offspring each year. When the young are born they are 10 inches in length and weigh 12 ounces. They cling to their mother's belly for 5 weeks until they have the strength to move on their own.
Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual
Average birth mass: 356 g.
Average gestation period: 279 days.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
Sex: male: 1644 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 1279 days.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Choloepus didactylus
Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.
Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Choloepus didactylus
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2013Least Concern (LC)
- Least Concern (LC)
- 2006Least Concern (LC)
- 1996Data Deficient (DD)
Two-toed sloths are in serious danger of losing their habitat due to logging of rain forests. Aside from captive animals, this is the only area in the world in which this species lives. Several organizations are currently working to protect these areas.
US Federal List: threatened
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
There is no direct negative effect of sloths on humans.
Two-toed sloths are a valuable food source and are often hunted for their meat.
Linnaeus's Two-toed Sloth
Linnaeus's two-toed sloth (Choloepus didactylus), also known as the Southern two-toed sloth or unau, is a species of sloth from South America, found in Venezuela, the Guyanas, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil north of the Amazon River.
It is a solitary, nocturnal and arboreal animal, found in rainforests. It is able to swim, making it possible to cross rivers and creeks. The two-toed sloth's main enemies are man, large birds of prey like the Harpy Eagle and Crested Eagle, and cats like the Ocelot.
Modern sloths are divided into two families based on the number of toes on their front feet. Linnaeus's two-toed sloth and Hoffmann's two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni) are larger than their three-toed cousins. They also have longer hair, bigger eyes, and their back and front legs are more equal in length.
- ^ Gardner, Alfred (16 November 2005). Wilson, Don E., and Reeder, DeeAnn M., eds. ed. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2 vols. (2142 pp.). pp. 101. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. http://www.bucknell.edu/msw3/browse.asp?id=11800018.
- ^ Meritt, M. & Members of the IUCN SSC Edentate Specialist Group (2008). Choloepus didactylus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 1 December 2008.
- ^ http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Publications/ZooGoer/2004/6/sloths.cfm
- ^ Heymann, E. W., Flores Amasifuén, C., Shahuano Tello, N., Tirado Herrera, E. T. & Stojan-Dolar, M (2010). "Disgusting appetite: Two-toed sloths feeding in human latrines". Mammalian Biology. doi:10.1016/j.mambio.2010.03.003.
- Louise H. Emmons and Francois Feer, 1997 - Neotropical Rainforest Mammals, A Field Guide.
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