Hoffman's Two-Toed Sloth

Hoffman's Two-Toed Sloth

Mammalia

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

COMMON NAME: Hoffman's two-toed sloth
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Xenarthra
FAMILY: Megalonychidae
GENUS SPECIES: Choloepus (lame or maimed foot) hoffmanni (Carl Hoffman of Costa Rica)

FAST FACTS

DESCRIPTION: Grayish-brown animal with a lighter face, has two long claws on the front feet, and three on the hind feet
SIZE: 50-75 cm (21-29 in.) total head and body length
WEIGHT: 4.5-9 kg (10-20 lbs.)
DIET: Herbivore, feeding on leaves, twigs, and fruits
GESTATION: 11.5 months; one offspring
SEXUAL MATURITY:
MALE 4-5 years
FEMALE 3.5 years
LIFE SPAN: Averages 15-20 years, but ages of over 30 are possible in managed situations
RANGE: Nicaragua to Peru and Central Brazil and northern South America
HABITAT: Tropical forest tree canopies
POPULATION: GLOBAL There are no exact population counts available; however, these animals are commonly found within the existing habitat within their range
STATUS: IUCN Density Dependent (DD)
CITES Appendix III
USFWS Not listed

FUN FACTS

1. Sloths are often classified under the order Edentata, along with anteaters and armadillos - their closest relative. Edentata means "without teeth" though anteaters are the only members of this order truly lacking teeth.
2. Sloths are extremely slow moving animals. Their slow speed, along with their nocturnal lifestyle, makes them very hard to notice. It is believed that sloths obtained their common name from one of the biblical "seven deadly sins".
3. The sloth has a very unusual symbiotic relationship with algae. It has specialized hair that encourages algae growth, which aids in camouflaging the animal. It is also believed that the sloth will eat some of the algae and, interestingly, it will absorb some of the nutrients from the algae through its skin.
4. The scientific name Choloepus means lame, or maimed, foot. That is a direct reference to the fact that this genus only has two toes on each of its front feet.
5. Sloths have an extremely slow metabolism and have the lowest variable body temperature of any mammal. Unlike most mammals, their body temperature and metabolism will fluctuate throughout the day according to environmental temperatures - ranging from 24 to 33 degrees Celsius. Because of their slow metabolism, it is necessary for sloths to defecate and urinate only once a week.
6. Sloths spend their entire lives hanging upside down in trees: eating, sleeping, mating, and even giving birth in an upside down position. Because their body is designed to hang upside down, they are physically incapable of truly walking; they basically crawl when on the ground, usually on the way from one tree to another. They can, however, swim extremely well. Another adaptation to life upside down is that their hair has a natural part on their belly (as opposed to their back) that allows water, in frequent rainstorms, to run off.

ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION

Because of their unique metabolic activity, sloths are restricted to the constant warm temperatures of tropical forests. Under pressure from an alarming rate of deforestation in the world's tropics, sloths and other tropical forest species numbers are at risk.

Because of their fruit diet, sloths are very important propagators of tropical plants. Several species of plants germinate only after they have passed through the sloths' digestive system.

Sloths are a food animal for indigenous people as well as for large carnivores, such as jaguars and birds of prey.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Grzimek, Bernhard (ed.). Grzimek's Encyclopedia Mammals. Vol. 2. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Co., 1990.

Macdonald, David (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Vol. 2. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1984.

Nowak, Ronald M. Walker's Mammals of the World. Vol. 1. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.