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Two-Toed Sloth - choloepus hoffmanni

By: C.M.Shorter
Two-Toed Sloth Picture
Two-Toed Sloth
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The Two-Toed Sloth, choloepus hoffmanni often referred to as Hoffman's Two-Toed Sloth is one of the world's most unique small mammals. Present day Sloth ancestors can be traced back to about 60 million years ago when there were both tree and ground Sloths. Some species of the now extinct giant Ground Sloth were as large as an elephant. All modern day living Sloths are Two-Toed Sloth or Three-Toed Sloths and classified as tree sloths. During the Ice Age, Giant Ground Sloths moved into North America from its origin in South America followed by their close relatives, the Armadillos which were probably the ultimate ancestor of the Sloth. Sloths are also related to anteaters in a group of mammals known as edentates. Sloths do have cheek teeth but are lacking incisors and canines and also make use of their hard lips to help tear at foraged food.

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Should you decide to go on a wild animal safari, you will have to look high up in the treetop canopy cover to observe a sloth in the wild. Sloths are famous for their ability to live and perform almost all basic life functions while hanging upside down suspended in mid-air! In fact, Sloths eat, sleep, mate and actually give birth while in this upside down position. They have spent so much time "hanging around" many of their internal organs (liver, stomach, spleen & pancreas) have actually been repositioned. The Two-Toed Sloth has only six cervical vertebrae and a more limited range of movement than the Three-Toed Sloth. The Two-Toed Sloth has the lowest and most variable body temperature of any mammal ranging from a low of 24°C to a high of 33°C (74°F - 92°F) and also the lowest muscle mass relative to overall body weight of any mammal.

Geographic range for the 5 remaining species of tree Sloths are the neotropical forests of Central America, the northern regions of South America, particularly in the Amazon Rainforest basin of Central Brazil and in Peru. Sloths are excellent living examples of evolutionary adaptation by a species to the canopy of the forest. In the constant jungle warfare between prey and predator, Sloths have succeeded through adaptations which enable them to survive as leaf-eaters, or folivores, existing primarily on a steady diet of tree leaves although this species will also consume animal matter such as bird eggs, nestlings, lizards, insects and carrion. A high ingestion of tree leaves that are coarse, full of cellulose and protected by toxic chemicals produced by trees to ward off predators takes quite a bit of time for the Sloth to digest. The Sloths have an extremely slow metabolic digestion rate of this fibrous diet descending only once every 5-7 days to urinate and defecate. Time spent on the ground is very short. Ground time is used sparingly either for personal hygiene or used to switch trees to obtain a new aerial food source. Sloths cannot walk upright but rather have to drag and pull themselves along with their claws and forearms. Sloths surprisingly are very good swimmers moving through the waterways or to navigate flood waters by using a "breast-stroke" type movement.

Like the Three-Toed Sloth they are medium sized animals typically achieving weights of between 9-20 lbs. with body length anywhere from 21-29 inches. Sloths are the slowest animal in the world! A far comparison from our Cheetah, known as the "fastest animal in the world" even if only for short sprinting distances. Sloths are so slow moving that algae actually grows on them. Sloths fur is tan to greyish brown in color, shaggy with a coarse outer fur grading to softer, finer layers of underfur. Sloths spend so much time upside down they are the only mammal whose fur is parted running belly to back to allow water to run off quickly during rainstorms. Their fur is specially designed to allow algae to colonize within the shaft giving them a symbiotic relationship with the algae as the Sloths can even absorb these airborne nutrients through their skin. The algae also gives the Sloths' coat an overall greenish-blue hue that provides excellent camouflage against the jungle canopy.

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