Sloths belong either to the Megalonychidae or the Bradypodidae family. The distinct features in these two sloth species is that the former has two toes and the latter has three toes. Sloths look similar and are often compared to Armandillos and Anteaters. Sloths are classified as Folivora, meaning leaf eaters. They are fond of eating buds, shoots and leaves. However, the two toed sloths feed on insects, reptiles and even birds. Though these animals have well adapted to the trees, leaves do not provide enough nutrition and energy and also make digestion difficult. Therefore, sloths are known to live a slow and sedentary life.
Their long and huge claws allow them a strong grip so as to hang from branches. Such a body structure is suitable for the purpose of dwelling in trees. On land, sloths are likely to fall prey to predators as their hind legs are weak and lacks the strength to quickly move. These arboreal animals can well transfer from one tree to another, but on land they cannot get away from an approaching predator. The only way of defense is biting and clawing.
Sloths are tropical rainforest animals that are spread in South America. The fur on their body is prone to develop algae that gives a green tinge to their coat and camouflages them within the trees. Sloths are nocturnal animals, who spend their time hanging upside down on the tree branches. Even the hair on their body grows backward.
Biological Cycle of Life
As mentioned earlier, there are two types of sloths; two toed and three toed. The life cycle of sloths of the Genus Choloepus and Genus Bradypus are different. The gestation period for a three toed lasts for 150 days while that of a two toed sloth is about 12 months. Sloths give birth while hanging in the trees. The young ones of sloths are born with claws and wrap themselves around their mother for nine months after their birth. Female sloths, nurture their newborn for six months. After two weeks of birth, the mother introduces a leafy diet to their little ones. After six months the female sloth leaves its little one with the other sloth species. At this time the young one learns to fend for itself and survive the wild environment. If it succeeds then it can live for up to a complete sloth lifespan. The young one's behavior and basic mannerisms are influenced by their mother. Even the eating pattern of the young one is similar to that of their mother. The females and males live together in the same tree, during the breeding time. Female sloths, often live together, while the male sloths are observed dwelling in different trees.
Female sloths reach sexual maturity earlier than the males. The different species of sloths will mature at a different age. Hoffman's two toed males reach maturity at around 5 years of age and females at 4 years. Two toed sloths weigh around 19 lbs and grow up to a height of 29 inches. The average lifespan of a sloth goes up to 20 years, but in captivity, they are known to live up to 30 years.
Like any other animals even sloths face the torment of human intervention. Deforestation is the major cause of loss of habitat. Also, road constructions have led to the deaths of many sloths as they tend to crawl across it when they climb down. Though these species are not yet the subject of concern, their population is well under observation.