THREE TOED SLOTH
The sloth is the world's slowest mammal, so sedentary that algae grows on its furry coat.
The three-toed sloths are tree-living mammals from South and Central America. They are the only members of the genus Bradypus and the family Bradypodidae. The four living species of three-toed sloths are the brown-throated sloth, the maned sloth, the pale-throated sloth, and the pygmy three-toed sloth.
- Type: Mammal
- Diet: Herbivore
- Lifespan: 25-30 years
- Size: 56-60cm
- Habitat: Tree dwelling in rain forest
- Range: South and Central America
- Scientific name: Bradypus
- Sloths are identified by the number of long, prominent claws that they have on each front foot. There are both two-toed and three-toed sloths.
- There are four living species of three-toed sloths; these are the brown-throated sloth, the maned sloth, the pale-throated sloth, and the pygmy three-toed sloth which was only recognised as a distinct species in 2001.
- The pygmy three-toed sloth can only be found on Isla Escudo de Veraguas which has been separated from mainland Panama for 9,000 years. The major threat to the pygmy three-toed sloth is habitat destruction which is reducing the size of its already small habitat.
- Being the world’s slowest mammal, the sloth travels at a top speed of 0.24 kilometres per hour (0.15 mph). They are so sedentary that algae grows on their furry coat.
- Sloths make a good habitat for other organisms, and a single sloth may be home to moths, beetles, cockroaches and fungi as well as algae.
- The three-toed sloth is arboreal (tree-dwelling), with a body adapted to hang by its limbs; the large curved claws help the sloth to keep a strong grip on tree branches. It lives high in the canopy but descends once a week to defecate on the forest floor.
- Sloths sleep in trees – some 15 to 20 hours every day. Even when awake they often remain motionless.
- At night they eat leaves, shoots and fruit from the trees and get almost all of their water from juicy plants.
- Dead sloths have been known to retain their grip and remain suspended from a branch
- Sloths will move between different trees up to four times a day, although they prefer to keep to a particular type of tree, which varies between individuals, perhaps as a means of allowing multiple sloths to occupy overlapping home ranges without competing with each other.
- Although they are quite slow in trees, three-toed sloths are agile swimmers.
- On land, sloths’ weak hind legs are not very powerful and their long claws are a hindrance. They cannot walk on all four limbs so they must use their front arms and claws to drag themselves across the rain forest floor.
- If caught on land, these animals have no chance to evade predators such as big cats and must try to defend themselves by clawing and biting.
- In trees the sloth’s greenish color and its sluggish habits provide an effective camouflage; hanging quietly, the sloth resembles a bundle of leaves.
- The three-toed sloth, unlike most other mammals, does not fully maintain a constant body temperature, and this limits it to warm environments.
- Sloths mate and give birth while hanging in the trees. Females give birth to a single young after a gestation period of around six months.
- Three-toed sloth babies are often seen clinging to their mothers — they travel by hanging on to them for the first nine months of their lives.
- Once sloth babies are weaned, the mother leaves her home territory to her offspring and moves elsewhere.
- Adults are solitary, and mark their territories using anal scent glands and dung middens.
- Sloths have extra neck vertebrae that allows them to turn their heads some 270 degrees.
- Extinct sloth species include many ground sloths, some of which were as big as elephants.
Clancy's comment: Charming face, eh?