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Sloth

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Sloth
Sloth.jpg
Scientific Classification
Families and Genera

Family: Bradypodidae

  • Bradypus

Family: Megalonychidae

  • Choloepus
Scientific name: Folivora

Introduction

Sloths are the world’s slowest animal. From their body movements, even to their digestion, everything they do is slow. Their scientific name is foilvora. These mammals are found only in the Amazon Rain Forest, living basically their whole lives in the trees. There are two types of sloths – two toed and three toed, and there are six species of sloths altogether: Pygmy three-toed sloth, Maned sloth, Pale-throated sloth, Brown-throated sloth, Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth, and Hoffman’s two-toed sloth. [2]

Body Design

Sloth claws

Sloths are very slow movers. They move through the rain forest at a rate of about 40 yards per day. The reason they are so slow is because their diet of mostly just leaves provides them with very little energy or nutrition. They also have only about half of the muscle tissue of other animals of similar weight. They can move slightly quicker when in danger, but only for short periods of time because of the amount of energy they burn while doing so.[3]

Sloths are actually good swimmers as well. Sometimes they drop directly off of their tree home and into the river to take a swim. [2] Another interesting fact about sloths is that they can move their heads almost 90 degrees around. Their mouths are shaped in a way that make them look like they are smiling. They have claws that are 3 to 4 inches long, which help them hang onto tree branches. These long claws (shown in the photo to the left) make it hard for them to walk on the ground though, which is probably why they stay in the trees most all the time. Sloths are 23 – 27 inches long and weigh between 17 and 18 lbs.

Sloth's fur is specialized for their living conditions. Their fur grows in the opposite direction as other mammals. This is because they spend their lives hanging upside down and because of the direction that their fur grows in, their legs are still covered and kept warm. Also, sloth's usually host two different species of symbiotic bacteria on their fur. The bacteria will sometimes give the sloths a green tint to their fur, helping them to blend in to their surroundings. Sloths also lick the bacteria, which provides a little extra nutrients for them. [3]

Life Cycle

Baby sloth being fed by a lady

Sloths sleep 15 to 20 hours per day. [2] They sleep in a ball in the corner of a tree branch, or sometimes hanging from a tree branch by their claws. They are not social animals and spend most of their lives alone.

Their mating ritual starts when the female screams a mating scream which lets the males know it's time to fight for the female. The males then fight by hanging from a tree branch by their feet and pawing at each other. Whichever male wins gets to mate with the female. They mate in the trees and they give birth in the trees as well. Sloths only have one baby at a time. They are pregnant for between 5 to 11 months, depending on what species of sloth. Sloth babies hang on to the mother's belly for many weeks after being born. Once they come unattached to their mothers, they still stick by her for around 4 years. [4]

Sloths can live for up to 25 to 35 years. Their metabolism is slower than any other animal on earth. [5] They have a 4 part stomach that very slowly digests their food. It can take up to one month for a meal to be digested. [4]

Ecology

Bolivian Three-toed Sloth rangemap

Sloths live in the Amazon rain forests of Central and South America. They eat leaves, twigs, and buds off of the trees that they live in. They lived their whole lives up in the trees. The only time they go to the forrest floor is when they need to poop, which is only about once a week. It is very dangerous for them to be on the ground, because they are much more exposed to predators and can't do much to fend them off. The only other time they leave the trees is to go swimming. Their main predators are jaguars, harpy eagles, and humans (poachers). Hunters quickly find that sloths are not worth shooting while hanging in trees, because even after they die, their claws continue to hold onto the tree branch.

Baby sloths usually cling to their mother's fur, but occasionally fall off. They are quite sturdy animals though, and can sometimes survive the fall to the ground. [3] They are an important part of the rain forest ecosystem. They are one of the most common mid sized mammals in the rain forest. [2]

Conservation

Pygmy toed sloths are consider critically endangered and are on the IUCN Species Survival Commission's top 100 list of most threatened species. This specific species is only found on Escudo Island, near Panama. [4] They only live in the red mangrove forests, which is about 1.5 kilometers of the island. Experts say there are only somewhere between 100 - 500 of these sloths left on Escudo Island. There is a ban on hunting the sloths as well as laws in place to make sure there habitat is not destroyed, but these efforts may not be enough and the pygmy toed sloth may soon become extinct. [6]

The maned sloth is also listed as a vulnerable species as well. The main threat to sloths is the loss of rain forests. When forests are cleared for farming or other reasons, sloths lose their homes and their food. Organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund work to try to protect the forests and save the sloth's habitat. [2]

Video

Comparing the differences between a Two and Three-toed sloth

References

  1. Gray, John. Bradypodidae Wikispecies. Last-modified 12 December 2012
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 World Wildlife Fund. [1] “Sloth” Web. Accessed 13 Dec 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 World Animal Foundation. [2] “Sloth fact sheet” Web. Accessed 16 January, 2017.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Bradford, Alina. [3] “Sloths: Habits, Habitat and Diet” Web. Published 21 May 2014.
  5. Alongi, Jenise. Sloth Facts animalfactsencyclopedia.. Web. Month Day, Year. Last accessed January 18, 2017
  6. Pygmy Three-Toed Sloth [4] Our Endangered World. last accessed 17 January, 2017