Two Toed Sloth
|TWO-TOED SLOTH (Choloepus hoffmanni)
The Two-Toed sloth began its evolution more than 35 million years ago, and is closely related to the now-extinct Ground Sloth. Their relatives may have preferred solid land, but Two-Toed’s like life a little higher up. They are clumsy on land, dragging their bellies along the ground with long arms. They climb trees slowly, but effortlessly, hanging upside down from the branches with a powerful grip and long claws. Even their fur has changed direction so that upside down, rain runs off their fur from their back to their head, instead of getting caught in it.
This is the world’s slowest mammal, moving only about 10% of the time. When they do, their pace is about 7 feet per minute. Life in the slow lane suits them just fine, though. They while away their days, hiding from predators like jaguars, harpy eagles and humans, surrounded by leaves and covered in a light coating of algae to complete the illusion of plant, not animal!
They are nocturnal herbivores, eating leaves, shoots and fruit. But this kind of diet can be hard on a mammal’s stomach. So, like cows, sloths have developed specialized stomachs to break down the leaves using symbiotic bacteria. It can take a month or more for a single meal to be processed.
Because nutrients and energy are hard to find in their diet, sloths have a metabolic rate that is slow, so it uses up very little energy. They also have lower body temperatures than most mammals, varying between 24 and 33 degrees celcius. We would die if our 37 degree temperature dropped that low!
Sloths stay up high, away from land-wandering predators, as much as they can. But life requires a trip to the bathroom now and then. Every three or four days they will climb down, dig a hole, go to the bathroom, cover it up, and climb back into the tree. They don’t come down to eat or drink, getting almost all their water from the plants they eat. They don’t come down to sleep, and not even to have their babies and raise them.
Mothers have one baby at a time, which she carries with her on her body for 6 – 9 months, until it is ready to be on its own.
Two-Toed Sloths live in the rainforests of Central and South America. The majority of reported deaths are due to poachers and electrical line accidents. They are at risk due to the increasing destruction of their habitat and their specialized feeding and living conditions.