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Brief Summary

Comprehensive Description

Distribution

    Distribution
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Found in the tropical forest canopies of Central America and northern South America, including portions of Brazil and Peru.

    Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )

Morphology

    Morphology
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    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

    Habitat
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    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

Trophic Strategy

    Trophic Strategy
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    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.

Associations

    Diets and Feeding
    provided by EOL authors

    Folivores or generalized herbivores — will eat leaves, twigs, buds, fruit, and occasionally rodents, and insects

    Favorite trees (*indicates species favored by all species)

    Dipteryx panamensis*

    Sapium caudatum

    Terminalia amazonica

    Spondius nigrescens

    Trattinickia aspera

    Chrysophyllum panamensis

    Anacardium excelsium*

    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

    Interspecies Relationships
    provided by EOL authors
    • 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.

Behavior

    Behavior
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

Life Expectancy

    Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
    provided by AnAge articles
    Maximum longevity: 36.8 years (captivity) Observations: This animal has the lowest and most variable body temperature among mammals (24 to 33ºC) (Ronald Nowak 1999). A 36.8 years old female is reported to be still alive at the Smithsonian National Zoo (http://nationalzoo.si.edu/).
    Life Expectancy
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Average lifespan
    Status: captivity:
    27.8 years.

Reproduction

    Reproduction
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    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.

Conservation Status

    Conservation Status
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    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

Benefits

    Benefits
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    There is no direct negative effect of sloths on humans.

    Benefits
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Two-toed sloths are a valuable food source and are often hunted for their meat.

Other Articles

    Untitled
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Average life span of two-toed sloths is 20 years in the wild, ages of 30 to 40 years have been recorded in captivity.