Our Super Sloth Summary - Everything You Need To Know About These Amazing Animals!

Our Super Sloth Summary - Everything You Need To Know About These Amazing Animals!

Posted by Connor Whelan on Jul 13, 2017

It doesn’t matter where you go in the world or who you talk to, almost everybody on the planet loves sloths. Whether it was from an introduction to Sid the Sloth in the Ice Age films or learning about these adorable animals through a funny sloth video on YouTube, sloths have become ever more popular amongst the general public. That is why today we wanted to help you learn more about sloths in our definitive Super Sloth Summary! We will be looking at them in more detail through some interesting facts and informational pieces, and of course a lot of pictures of sloths so let’s take a closer look…

First Things First, Are There Different Types Of Sloth?

Something many people don’t know is that there are actually two different types of sloth, the three toed and the two toed sloth. These two types are broken down further into 6 different species, each with their own unique attributes and looks and it is important to understand the difference between the two.

Three Toed Sloth

Three Toed Sloth Picture

There are four different species of three toed sloth and believe it or not these guys are the slower ones of the sloth family (that really takes some doing!) The four different species are:

  • The Brown-Throated Sloth
  • The Maned Sloth – Endangered
  • The Pale-Throated Sloth
  • The Pygmy Three-Toed Sloth – Critically Endangered

Although they are similar in appearance to their two-toed cousins, these two types of sloths are actually placed in different genetic families. Recent analysis of the sloths evolutionary path has come to the conclusion that the two genera are not actually closely related and they developed their arboreal lifestyles independently of each other.

Naming the sloths after the number of toes they have is actually deceptive as both types have three toes. The difference comes in the number of fingers they have and this is where the three and two-toed sections of their names come from.

Unlike the two-toed sloths, the three toed sloths are actually very good swimmers (as you may remember from this clip on Planet Earth II with David Attenborough!)

Unfortunately though they are very slow both on land and in the trees, so they have to make full use of their algae coated fur to camouflage them from any opportunistic predators. They can be found clambering very slowly through the forest floor in Brazil, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, Columbia and parts of Central America too including Costa Rica! In the wild the three-toed sloths can live for up to 30 years, but if they are this slow now imagine how bad they will be in their old age….

Two Toed Sloth

Two Toed Sloth Picture

The faster moving and slightly larger of the two types of sloth, the two-toed sloth has a series of difference that set it apart from its distant three-toed relative. As mentioned previously, the “two-toes” of the two- toed sloth are actually fingers and this is where the animal gets its name from. However that is far from the only difference between the two. The two-toed variety of sloth has a much more prominent snout, longer fur, and they do not have a tail like the three-toed sloths do. There are two different species of two-toed sloth and they are:

  • Linneau’s Two-Toed Sloth
  • Hoffmann’s Two-Toed Sloth

Both of these species spend most of their lives hanging upside down in trees, but on the odd occasion they do descend to the forest floor they will travel down head first (which is the opposite to their three-toed cousins.) Once on the ground two-toed sloths cannot actually walk, so instead they pull themselves around in a hand over hand movement until they reach their destination, and this goes some way to explaining why they move so slowly.

What Do Sloths Eat?

Sloth Eating

One thing the two different types of sloths share is the majority of their diet. Their preferred food source is many different types of leaves, but some other common things sloths eat include:

  • Shoots
  • Fruit
  • Nuts
  • Berries
  • Bark
  • Some small local flowers
  • Insects

However even in their diet there is a difference between the two types of sloths. Two-toed sloths are a lot less picky when it comes to their dinner plans, and whilst they would prefer to eat the things on the list above, they have been known to tuck into the following when the chance presents itself:

  • Rats
  • Mice
  • Bird eggs

Everything about these animals is slow including their metabolism, and this means that sloths are able to survive on an incredibly small amount of food. As they expend minimal amounts of energy in their daily lives sloths can get by on a tiny intake of food which is very lucky as could you imagine taking hours to eat an insect and leaf salad!

Where Do Sloths Live?

Cute Sloth Sleeping

We touched on this when looking at the two different types of sloth but the sloths habitat ranges across regions of both South and Central America. Both types of sloth tend to occupy the same areas of the forest, with one dominant two-toed sloth and one dominant three-toed jointly controlling one section with their territories ranging from around 0.5km to 1km squared.

Sloths spend almost the entirety of their lives high up in the trees, and they have even been known to sleep in the crook of a tree to avoid detection from predators. On the rare occasion they do make their way to ground level it is almost always to defecate, track down food, or even go for a swim!

Are Sloths Endangered?

Whilst most of the different species of sloth live in protected areas of land with very healthy habits, there are two species that are classed as endangered on the IUCN red list. The Maned three-toed sloth and the Pygmy three-toed sloth are endangered and critically endangered respectively and this is due to a number of reasons, the first of which being their famed lack of speed…

Why Are Sloths So Slow?

Slow Sloth

One of the most frequently asked questions about sloths is “why are sloths slow?” The animals that share their name with the lazy sin are well known all around the world for living life firmly in the slow lane, but few people know that this is all due to their metabolism. Sloths have an extremely low metabolic rate which means that they move at the languid and sluggish pace that they are so famed for, expending very little energy as they do so. Sloths travel on average less than 41 yards per day, so when they do venture to the forest floor they are very vulnerable. Sloth predators see this as a fantastic opportunity for a defenceless and very slow moving snack and this does have an impact on sloth numbers.

The second reason two species of sloth are endangered is one that is becoming all the more common around the world for many different animals…

Deforestation

Deforestation

The health of the world’s sloth population is entirely dependent on the health of the world’s rainforests and with the latter at an almost permanent risk of deforestation sloth numbers are beginning to suffer. Without an abundance of trees, sloths will be at risk of losing their shelter and will therefore be much more vulnerable to predators. Sloths also rely on the trees to supply them with a source of food so if the trees disappear so will the sloths.

Sloth Facts

An informational piece such as this would not be complete without a fact file, so here are some of the most amazing facts we could find out about sloths:

  • There are few things in life that are cuter than a sloth baby, but did you know that these youngsters cling onto their mothers for the first 9 months of their lives and don’t really move at all!
  • If you have ever found yourself wondering “how long do sloths sleep?” then the answer may surprise you! Whilst sloths in captivity have been recorded sleeping up to 20 hours a day, most sloths in the wild actually only sleep for just over 9.5 hours a day. That’s the same as some humans!
  • They may not seem like spectacular animals, but a sloths adaptations to its environment are truly something to behold. The stomachs which allow them to survive on such a limited amount of nutrition are incredible in themselves, but the most impressive thing about sloths is their fur. Overtime they have developed a symbiotic relationship with the cyanobacteria which resides on their back. In return for having somewhere to grow and flourish, the bacterium provides the sloths with a form of camouflage and source of nutrients.
  • Sloths can move almost 1/3 quicker up in the trees than compared to on land which is why they spend so much time up in them!

We hope that throughout this blog you have learned a little more about sloths and have enjoyed learning about these wonderful animals! If you have been inspired to make a difference then why not take a look at our sloth and wildlife sanctuary in Costa Rica and you can make a difference at the project.


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