Sloths are literally named for their characteristically slow movement
Sloths are notoriously slow. Living in rainforests in Central and South America, sloths spend most of their time hanging upside down in the trees, rarely coming down to the ground.
There are two main families of sloths, two-toed sloths, and three-toed sloths, and they have been around 64 million of years.
All six species of sloths are found in the rainforests of Central and South America. Each species has different distribution, and some are localized to a very small range. The brown-throated sloth can be found from Honduras to Eastern Peru. The pale-throated sloth is found from Guyana to areas north of the Amazon River in Brazil. The maned sloth is found only in Brazil.
The three-toed sloth is found only on Isla Escudo de Veraguas off the coast of Panama. The Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth is found from Venezuela to areas north of the Amazon River in Brazil. The Hoffman’s two-toed sloth is divided into two populations, one from Honduras to Ecuador, and the other from Peru to Bolivia.
Diet of the Sloth
Sloths are omnivores, eating both plants and small animals. All species feed on the leaves of the cecropia family of trees, but will also browse on a number of other plants. Sloths have also been known to feed on insects, fruits, lizards, and even carrion. They learn what foods to eat by licking their mother’s lips, and this allows baby to determine what foods are safe to eat.
Their slow metabolic rate means they can survive off of very little food, which is especially useful during droughts
Behavior of the Sloth
These animals spend the vast majority of their time alone, and only interact with other sloths to breed. They spend most of their time in and around their “home” modal tree, where they browse for food and sleep.
Sloths are solitary creatures that rarely interact with one another outside of breeding season. But sloths have little time to feel lonely given their rigorous sleep schedule. Captive sloths typically sleep for 15 to 20 hours per day, while wild sloths rarely rest for more than 10 hours, according to research by the Planck Institute for Ornithology in Starnberg, Germany. Sloths prefer sleeping while curled into a ball in the fork of a tropical tree. They also like to sleep hanging by their claws from tree branches.
Sloth moms only give birth about once every six months. The babies cling to their mom for around six months, learning the ropes of what it takes to survive in the jungle. When sloths leave the safety of their mother, they adopt part of their parent’s home range, staying in touch through frequent calls.
Even though they spend most of their time up in trees, they do take a dip once in awhile to cool off. In fact, some extinct species of sloth were primarily aquatic animals.
Today’s sloths are surprisingly good at swimming: They can hold their breath for up to 40 minutes and can reach speeds of up to 45 feet per minute in the water.
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