Anatomy, Behavior & Diet
Anatomical and behavioral differences between
these two sloth species support the scientific theory that they
evolved from different Sloth lineages. The Three-Toed Sloth is
thought to have descended from true "Tree-Dwelling" Sloths.
Two-Toed Sloths are believed to be descendents of the now extinct
Giant Ground Sloths. Many campfire stories are told of sightings
of an unusual, elusive creature who haunts the woods and forests
known as "Big Foot". Some people believe the source
of this mystery may be surviving relatives of the Giant Ground
Sloths, who could walk upright. It is surmised that these shy
creatures known as "Big Foot" might actually be evolutionary
marvels still living and surviving deep in the jungles and impenetrable
heavily forested areas of the world. Surprisingly, but not very
often, scientists actually "rediscover" species thought
to be extinct for long periods of time such as the recent confirmation
that the Ivory-Billed
Woodpecker, declared extinct for almost 60 years
amazingly crossed over the brink from extinction. Or, in the
case of new species discoveries, as recently as 1976, of the Megamouth
Shark which proves we are still learning about evolution.
This 1,650 pound deep-sea plankton feeding shark, genus and species
unknown to science was haled as one of the greatest ichthyological
discoveries of the 20th Century.
Three-Toed Sloths are one of the few small
mammals that not only exist but seem to flourish on a diet of
leaves and have notoriously slow digestive systems. The nutritional
content of the leaves they consume does vary from season to season.
Fibrous, tough, and sometimes protected by toxic chemicals which
plants produce as a defensive mechanism to protect themselves
from a host of jungle insects makes these leaves difficult to
digest. Three-Toed Sloths are obligatory arboreal folivores (leaf-eaters)
with complex stomachs containing a system of pouches to store
and separate food in various stages of decomposition. Unlike
their relative, the Two-Toed Sloth who consumes flowers, buds,
and fruits, the Three-Toed Sloth eats a diet of nothing but leaves.
Sloths have adapted so well to the tree-top canopy they feed,
sleep, reproduce and live their days nestled high up in the trees.
Sloth's natural enemies are predatory jungle animals like Anacondas, Harpy
Eagles, Jaguars and Ocelots.
Sloths usually descend their tree perch only every 5-7 days to
defecate and urinate. They may take this opportunity to switch
to a more promising tree food source, but they must actually
drag themselves along the ground and are not capable of standing
upright, although they are known to be excellent swimmers when
Sloths have one of the most variable body
temperatures of any mammal, fluctuating daily and ranging anywhere
from a low of 24°C to a high of 33°C (74°F - 92°F).
One might find them basking in the sun or retreating into shade
as a means of thermoregulation in the same fashion as lizards.
Sloths are one of nature's most successful adaptation blueprints,
carving out a niche in territory and food for themselves with
little competition for Wilderness
Survival! In fact their closest competitor for food
is not in the primate family, excepting for the Howler Monkey,
but rather from reptiles such as iguanas who are also generalized arboreal
folivores preferring to occupy the same habitat.
Both species have shaggy fur, taking on a
blue-green coloring from the algae that grows on them which provides
excellent camouflage. Three-Toed Sloths are diurnal (active both
day and night) and pass along from generation to generation a
matrilineal existence. This means they inherit their mother's
preferences for territory and diet and pass those survival traits
on their offspring. Sloth mothers have an extended 6-month pregnancy
and give birth to one baby once a year. Although weaned at 6
weeks, the baby sloth rides on its mother's back in Ring
Tailed Lemur fashion for periods up to 5-6 months
before becoming independent.
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Information available. We sincerely hope our efforts
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beautiful naturalistic habitats.