SLOTH


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A sloth has tiny ears and doesn’t hear very well. But it has great eyesight, a good sense of smell, and is sensitive to vibrations.

Perhaps my favorite animal found the rainforest is the sloth. Costa Rica is home to two of the five species of sloth, the two-toed (Chollepus hoffmanni) and three-toed sloth (Bradypus variegatus).

The sloth is the slowest mammal on Earth. It takes a month for a sloth to move 1 kilometer!

Sloths are arboreal animals, which means that they spend most of their lives hanging upside-down from tree branches. They eat, sleep, mate, and give birth upside-down in the trees. They hold onto tree branches with strong, curved claws that are on each of their four feet

Sloths are herbivores. They eat leaves, tender young trees, and fruit. But it’s hard to find time to eat during the sloth’s busy schedule that includes sleeping about 15-18 hours each day.

The main difference between the two-toed and three-toed sloths (besides the number of toes) is that the three-toed sloth is diurnal and the two-toed sloth is nocturnal. Both of the animals are about 1.5 – 2 feet in length. Both species have a stumpy tail.

Everything a sloth does is slow. It chews slowly, blinks its eyes slowly, and definitely moves slowly. Sloths have a low metabolic rate and a low body temperature (91°F). This allows them to eat very slowly (and only need a little bit of food), and they don’t require much water, because they don’t expend much energy. It takes nearly a week for a sloth to digest one meal.

Sloths are related to anteaters, a group of mammals known as edentates. Anteaters and other edentates don’t have teeth. However, sloths have small teeth which they use to chew up their leafy food.


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Some sloths can rotate the head 270 degrees. This is because they have more neck vertebrae than most mammals (only 7).


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Slowly making its way toward its favorite food: leaves.

A sloth can tolerate larger changes in body temperature than any other mammal: from 74°F – 92°F. At night, its body temperature can drop by as much as 22°F to conserve energy. Its thick hairy coat helps conserve heat and it sleeps in a tight ball to stay warm.

A sloth has very little muscle: it has the lowest muscle to mass ratios of all mammals. So it cannot shiver to keep warm. Three-toed sloths warm up by basking in the sun (in a more open tree) but Two-toed sloths don’t appear to do this.

Sloths are hunted by jaguars, harpy eagles, and people. A sloth’s main forms of protection are its camouflage (greatly increased by the coating of algae growing on its fur) and its very slow movement; these adaptations make it virtually disappear in the rain forest canopy.

The sloth got its name from its slow movement. It is not lazy, just slow-moving.


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Sloths love hanging around.


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Three-toed sloths are diurnal, and toe-toed sloths are nocturnal. Which species is this one?

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