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The Sloth One of the Unusual Animals of the World

Updated on August 9, 2015

Bradypus variegatus

The Brown throated three toed sloth
The Brown throated three toed sloth | Source

Introducing the Sloth

Sloths were once classed in the archaic Order Edentata {toothless animals}, the family Tardigrada and the genus Acheus. They are now placed in the family Bradypogdiae and the genus Bradypus. The three toed sloths. Or the family Megalonychidae -two toed sloths

The sloths are unusual animals, or to be more precise not conforming to our usual perception of a mammal, and their form and habits make them unique in the animal Kingdom. However, nature in its wisdom designed the sloth to adapt to their haunts, and mode of life, as it has those species we are much more familiar with, and fit more correctly in our perception of mammals.

The habitat of these mammals are the deep extensive luxuriant forests of South America. The trees in these forests attain a great height they are always green and they grow so close together that the suns rays rarely reach the earth. The forests extend over large areas, so wide, and so festooned with climbing species of flora, that winds,which would level our single trees with the ground and render many woodlands to tatters, would hardly agitate the tops of these forests with the exception of a few trees at the sides of the openings.

Sloth feeding


Natures economy at work

Here we witness nature's economy in action once again. In those luxuriant forests, it is vital that there should be some browsing of the super abundant foliage.Otherwise the sun and air would be excluded and the forest would perish, leaving a naked and carpet-less floor, which would be scorched by the tropical sun transforming it into an acrid waste land, upon which very few creatures could survive. A by-product of such a transformation would also be a demise of the rain, and the land would become beyond any use to man or beast. Once desert, always a desert, unless some mighty movement of nature displaces it and moulds its elements anew,

Thus the top of the trees are a pasture suspended in the air. So which is the best way for this pasture to be grazed ? Should the sloth graze on this 'pasture' from above or below it? Green leaves alone can not take the weight of a sizeable animal that wishes to graze and browse at leisure, so the conclusion must be , that an animal the size of a sloth would find it very difficult to browse on the leaves from above. But an animal suspended from the twigs or branches upon which the leaves grow, and, ' holding on' in the manner of the sloth could have command of itself and feed.

So, this is exactly the mode of habit that the sloth have adopted. Their position is the reverse of animals that walk upon the ground, thus their method of locomotion must also be reversed. the suspension from below the twigs and branches is undertaken by the claws so that no part of which there is any circulation is pressed by their weight. When at rest they hang on by all four feet, which are nearly as straight as possible. When they exert themselves, the claws can be brought close to the upper part of the ' wrist ' and they can hold firmly to the most slender of twigs, and the hind ones which hold on, while the fore-ones are bringing the foliage within reach of the mouth.

Each foot can work independently which allows them to feed on the very end of the twigs. When climbing the tree, the claws act in the manner of ' climbing irons' the claws grasping each branch securely while the animal climbs higher.

Sloths when on the ground appear to be awkward, which indeed they are, for they seldom touch the ground unless by some freak accident. On the ground the animal is out of its element, however, it is not as helpless there, as for an example a fish out of water! When the sloth finds itself on the ground it walks upon the sides of its feet, rather than the sole of the foot.

The general characteristics of the sloth

Sloths possess no cutting teeth in either jaw. They possess four molar and one canine in each side of the lower. These are cylindrical, composed of soft bone, cased with enamel but with no plates of enamel in their substance. As such they are not designed for biting, or indeed, grinding, but only for pulling off the leaves, which are deposited in the stomach with very little preparation from the mouth. The stomach consists of many 'sections' similar to those of the Ruminate animals, but sloths do not ruminate. The sections of the stomach each help the animal to digest the food.

On each foot are either three or two toes depending on the species. The forelegs are very long, nearly double the length of the hind ones { in the three toed sloths} and the neck of the Pale throated sloth Bradypus tridactylus, is usually described as having nine vertebrate while other species of mammals have seven. However, the seven vertical vertebrate, or those without articulate processes are the same, but, the first and second dorsal vertebrate follow more the structure of birds { which is consistent with their habitat and mode of feeding} the ribs on them are not joined to the sternum.

This formation allows them more movement of the head, when it is raised upwards, and rests on, or is received, between the forelegs, when the animal hangs from the branches asleep.

A Look at the Species.

There are six species of sloth which are recognised with some varieties of the certain species.

The Pale throated sloth, Bradypus tridactyleus,The limbs are long and weak, the front limbs 'arms' are twice as long as the hind legs. They inhabit the northern South America. They have a single young which is carried on the back of the mother for many months.

The Maned sloth--Bradypus torquatus is an inhabitant of south eastern Brazil. It is classed as being vulnerable, due to habitat loss, because of deforestation. It is a solitary species, diurnal but spends 60-80% of the time asleep, the rest is spent travelling and feeding. they produce one young which is carried by the mother. They are independent at between 9 and 11 months old.

Brown throated sloth, Bradypus variegatusis a sloth that inhabits South and Central America. this sloth also spends much of its time sleeping 15-18 hours per day and are only active for brief periods which may be during the day or night. The adults lead a solitary lifestyle outside the breeding season. The female gives birth to one baby which is born fully furred and clawed. they cling to the mother for up to five months or more. Can be confused with the Pale throated sloth.

Hoffman's two toed sloth Choloepus hoffmani belongs to the family Megalonychidae is a nocturnal species, which is heavily built with long shaggy fur. The movement is slow and deliberate. The fore feet have two claws with three on each of the hind feet. they tend to have a slightly longer snout than other species. the very short tail is not visible through the fur. they inhabit the north and western side of South America. They are not thought to be in any danger.

Linnaeu's two toed sloth {southern two toed sloth} Choloepus didactylus is very similar to the Hoffman's sloth with which it is often confused. Two toes sloths are generally bigger than their three toed cousins, they also have longer fur, bigger eyes and their back and front legs are more equal in length. This species is nocturnal and arboreal in habit.

Pygmy three toed sloth Bradypus pygmaeus is a Critically Endangered species which is endemic to a small island of the coast of Panama. { Isla Escudo de Varaguas} and was only recognised as a separate species in 2001. the adults measure a mere 19-21 inches[48-53cm} with a tail of just 2.4 inches { 4.5-6cms}

It is found exclusively in Red mangroves and feeds on coarse leaves. It is a close relative of the Brown throated sloth.

Pale throated sloth with young on the mothers back

Note the long forelegs {arms} compared with the hind legs.
Note the long forelegs {arms} compared with the hind legs. | Source

Maned sloth Bradypus torquatus


Linnaeu's two toed sloth


More to come

I hope you have enjoyed this insight to unusual animals of the world. The next in this series I will be reviewing the Ant-eaters another fascinating animal in this wonderful world of nature that most of us are not familiar with.

Thank you for visiting.


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      For the size of the animals they only tend to live for 10-12 years in the wild and often much less than that. Your right there is no rushing these creatures. I think we could all do with their laid back lifestyle in this hectic world. Thank you for visiting and for taking the time to comment. Best wishes to you.

      Hi Eddy, thank you for visiting and for leaving your appreciated comments. Best wishes to you.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      6 years ago from Wales

      A very interesting and well informed hub. Thanks for sharing.


    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      6 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Interesting Hub! Makes you wonder what else is in the Rain Forest. There's probably all manner of weird and wonderful creatures nobody's seen yet. These sloths live a long time, do they, (can't see them rushing to catch the 8.30 all stations to Liverpool Street) at the rate they get about? With great claws like that, I don't suppose they have to rush to get away from predators.


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