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The three-toed sloths are arboreal neotropical mammals (also known as "three-fingered" sloths). They are the only members of the genus Bradypus and the family Bradypodidae. The four living species of three-toed sloths are the brown-throated sloth, the maned sloth, the pale-throated sloth, and the pygmy three-toed sloth.
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The three-toed sloth emits a long, high-pitched call that echoes through the forests as “ahh-eeee.” Because of this cry these sloths are sometimes called ais (pronounced “eyes”). Three-toed sloths...
The three-toed sloth is arboreal (tree-dwelling), with a body adapted to hang by its limbs; the large curved claws help the sloth to keep a strong grip on tree branches. It lives high in the canopy but descends once a week to defecate on the forest floor. Sloths sleep in trees – some 15 to 20 hours every day.
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- Physical characteristics
- Conservation status
The Three-Toed Sloth is a mammal and there are four species that have been identified. They are very slow moving animals but they are more aggressive and able to protect themselves. They are very good swimmers and move faster in the water than they do in the trees or on land. It is common to see the Three-Toed Sloth hanging upside down on the lower limbs of the trees. Sometimes they do move up to the canopy area for safety and food. They tend to be solitary animals, only with others for mating or when females are caring for their young. They can be very territorial too. They use too much energy to move around on land due to the lack of strength in their hind legs. They have to use their claws on the front to pull them along. They will use the sharp claws to fight if they need to. They may sleep from 15 to 20 hours per day so there isnt very much going on with them other than eating and sleeping! They make low sounds when they are trying to protect habitat and to look for a mate. The majority of communication though is between the mother and her young. Since she only has 1 baby at a time to care for she has plenty of time to lavish it with attention.
The greenish coloring on the Three-Toed Sloth comes from the algae that derive from the trees. It is really a light brown or light black color. They have very sharp claws designed for climbing and hanging. They are about 18-23 incheslong, and weigh from 8 to10 poundswhen fully mature. They have three claws on each of their feet that are from the three toes on them. They are able to turn their head up to 270 degrees due to an additional vertebrate in their neck.
The Three-Toed Sloth lives in South and Central America. They mainly live in the trees but they are going to be seen on land from time to time. They also are found near bodies of water so that they can swim. However, the majority of the life is spent in the trees. They have to live in the warmer climates as they have a tough time regulating their own body temperature.
The only teeth that the Three-Toed Sloth are peg shaped. They are herbivores and they consume a variety of food items from the trees. This includes fruits, berries, leaves and shrubs. They eat very slow but they do have to eat lots of food due to the lack of overall nutritional value that their food supplies offer them. They do need water to drink, but most of the time they get more than enough of it just from the food that they consume.
February and March are the times of the year when the Three-Toed Sloth will take part in mating. After mating the mother will give birth born 6 months later to a single offspring. They will consume milk from the body of the mother and be taught to forage for food. The young will latch onto the body of the mother and stay there most of them time for safety.
When they are about 9 months old they will have to be dependent on themselves. What is interesting is that they mate and give birth when they are hanging upside down from the trees.
The Three-Toed Sloth is considered to be Endangered at this point in time. The biggest risk to them comes from the loss of habitat. Many forest locations that they call home continue to be destroyed in very large numbers. Conservation efforts are in place to help protect them and to help them increase numbers.
The brown-throated three-toed sloth is a truly unique animal that inhabits the rainforest canopies of Central and South America. The term sloth is synonymous with the word slow, and sloths certainly live up to that definition.
Sloths evolved to expend very little energy because their diet does not provide them with a lot of calories and nutrition. Brown-throated sloths primarily eat tough, rubbery rainforest leaves. These leaves are also full of toxins (a form of protection for the rainforest trees). But sloths have developed a digestive system to handle these highly indigestible leaves. Their stomachs are multi-chambered, similar to a cows stomach, and house a mix of bacteria which helps to slowly break down the leaves. It takes two weeks for a sloth to digest one meal the slowest digestion time of any mammal!
Sloths are specially adapted to live among the treetops. Their fur hangs upside down, running from their stomachs to their backs. This is because sloths themselves usually hang upside down. The orientation of their fur helps the rain water flow away from their body.
In addition, sloths have large curved claws to help them effortlessly grasp branches and vines, and hang comfortably while they eat and sleep. Brown-throated three-toed sloths, as you may have guessed, have three toes and three claws per foot. But interestingly, even two-toed sloths have three toes per foot! The difference is that they only have two claws on each. Brown-throated sloths have the ability to rotate their heads like owls. They can turn their heads up to 300 degrees due to their unique neck structure. They have nine cervical vertebrae (the bones in the spine that support the head), as opposed to the seven that most mammals have. This allows for greater rotation, which helps the sloth scan for predators like spectacled owls, harpy eagles and snakes.
Once a week, brown-throated three-toed sloths descend from the rainforest canopy to urinate and defecate. Although their large curved claws help them immensely in the treetops, they make traveling on the ground very difficult. Sloths crawl very awkwardly and slowly on the ground, making them easy targets for predators like ocelots.
When sloths descend from the canopy, they come in contact with the beneficial fungal spores in the soil. In addition, the moths have a chance to lay their eggs in the sloths dung. In this way, a complete ecosystem thrives between the sloth and the organisms living in its fur.
Male brown-throated three-toed sloths can be easily distinguished from females because they have a bright orange patch with a black stripe on their backs. This patch has scent marking glands that attracts female sloths. Alpha males have a larger patches than other males.
The mating season for brown-throated sloths is in the spring, which is July-November in South America and February-May in Central America. Female sloths give birth to one infant at a time. The baby sloth spends 5-10 months attached to its mother, using her body like a jungle gym. This helps prepare the baby for life hanging in the treetops.
The brown-throated sloth is classified as a species of least concern by the IUCN because it has a wide distribution in the Amazon forest. But the sloth faces many ongoing threats. Due to deforestation and development, sloths are losing critical habitat. They are forced out of the trees in search of new territory, often getting hit by cars when they cross roads. Sloths are also sold as pets on the black market to tourists.The poachers take baby sloths from their mothers and cut off their teeth and claws. These infants usually do not survive long. To help three-toed sloths, you can help protect their habitat. Donate to organizations like the World Land Trust or WWF.
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The Three-toed sloth is a family of four species of sloths that have 3 toes. The four living species of three-toed sloths are the brown-throated sloth, the maned sloth, the pale-throated sloth, and the pygmy three-toed sloth. Sloths are identified by the number of long, prominent claws that they have on each front foot.
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