If you want to learn about Sloths, this
page contains lots of useful information about its habitat
and lifestyle, as well as how it is affected by changes
to the rainforests.
The living sloths comprise six species of medium-sized
mammals that live in Central and South America belonging
to the families Megalonychidae and Bradypodidae, part
of the order Pilosa.
Most scientists call the sloth suborder Folivora, while
some call it Phyllophaga. Both names mean "leaf-eaters";
the first is derived from Latin, the second from ancient
Greek. Tribal names include Ritto, Rit and Ridette, mostly
forms of the word "sleep", "eat" and "dirty" from Tagaeri
tribe of Huaorani. This page mainly deals with the living
Until geologically recent times, large ground sloths
such as Megatherium lived in South America and parts of
North America, but along with many other animals they
disappeared immediately after the arrival of humans on
the continent. Much evidence suggests that human hunting
contributed to the extinction of the American megafauna,
like that of far northern Asia, Australia, New Zealand,
and Madagascar. Simultaneous climate change that came
with the end of the last Ice age may have also played
a role in some cases. However, the fact that ground sloths
survived on the Antilles long after they had died out
on the mainland points towards human activities as the
agency of extinction.
The living sloths are omnivores. They may eat insects,
small lizards, and carrion, but their diet consists mostly
of buds, tender shoots, and leaves, mainly of Cecropia
trees. They have made extraordinary adaptations to an
arboreal browsing lifestyle. Leaves, their main food source,
provide very little energy or nutrition and do not digest
easily: sloths have very large, specialized, slow-acting
stomachs with multiple compartments in which symbiotic
bacteria break down the tough leaves.
As much as two-thirds of a well-fed sloth's body-weight
consists of the contents of its stomach, and the digestive
process can take a month or more to complete. Even so,
leaves provide little energy, and sloths deal with this
by a range of economy measures: they have very low metabolic
rates (less than half of that expected for a creature
of their size), and maintain low body temperatures when
active (30 to 34 °C or 86 to 93 °F), and still lower temperatures
when resting. Although unable to survive outside the tropical
rainforests of South and Central America, within that
environment sloths are outstandingly successful creatures:
they can account for as much as half the total energy
consumption and two-thirds of the total terrestrial mammalian
biomass in some areas.
The Maned Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus torquatus), has
a classification of "endangered" at present. The ongoing
destruction of South America's forests, however, may soon
prove a threat to other sloth species.
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