- A-Z Animals
The sloth is an arboreal mammal, mostly known for its slow movement. These animals are often spotted upside down on the branches of certain trees. Due to their sluggish movements, they remain immobile most of the time.
The slowness of these creatures is quite notable, with their name being synonymous with laziness in several languages. This passive nature can be attributed to the animals’ slow metabolic rate, which causes them to perform all their activities at lackluster speeds. These include feeding, digestion, movement, and finding a mate.
Currently, there are only six extant species of sloth available globally. These are divided into two families – the three-toed and two-toed sloths.
Length: 24 to 31 in (60 to 80 cm)
Weight: 7.9 to 17.0 lb (3.6 to 7.7 kg)
Body and Coloration: The sloth is characterized by its long limbs, with a set of claws on each limb. They have rounded heads with small ears and facial coloring that gives them a constantly smiling appearance.
Sloths can have brown, black, or gray fur, though their bodies are covered with algae in most species.
These arboreal animals are found throughout Central and South America, with some specimens observed in Brazil and Peru.
Sloths seem capable of thriving only in tropical rainforests.
Two-toed sloths live for around 20 years, while three-toed sloths live a bit longer at 25-30 years.
The three-toed sloths are herbivores, feeding entirely on buds, leaves, fruits, and shoots. However, the two-toed sloths are omnivorous, consuming insects, carrion, and small lizards alongside plant material.
Due to their slow digestive system and metabolic rate, some sloths take over a month to digest their food.
While certain predators like jaguars, ocelots, and eagles may hunt sloths, they are less likely to be attacked due to their slow-moving nature and camouflage.
The three-toed sloths generally mate from late summer to early fall, while the two-toed sloths breed year-round. A female sloth will emit a shrill, monotonous cry when she is in heat to alert males. If more than one suitor responds, they will batter and swipe at each other until only one stays behind.
While the gestation period varies from species to species, it is pretty long -with six months required for the three-toed specimens and around a year for two-toed ones. A single baby sloth is born at a time, which will cling to its mother for a period ranging from 6 weeks to 5 months. The little sloth will stay close to its mother for 2-4 years afterward, learning which types of food to eat by licking the tips of her fingers.
Females tend to mature more quickly at around 3 years than the males in most species, which do so at 4-5 years. The inverse is only seen in the pale-throated three-toed sloth.
Most species of sloths are classified as “Least Concern” or “LC”. However, the maned three-toed sloth is classified as “Vulnerable” or “VU” due to habitat loss and excessive hunting, while the pygmy three-toed sloth is “Critically Endangered” or “CR” as a result of a population bottleneck.
Adults rarely make noises outside of females wanting to mate; however, baby sloths make an adorable squeal to communicate.
While sloths resemble monkeys due to their long arms and fur all over their bodies, they are more closely related to armadillos, anteaters, and pangolins.
Not very fast, as even when threatened, a sloth can only reach a maximum speed of 0.17 mph.
If attacked, sloths can use their 3-4 inch long claws as well as their teeth to defend themselves.
Even though they might possess the body strength to do so, they lack the speed necessary to jump.