Sloths are slow-moving mammals that have made a habitat out of the rain forests of South and Central America. These tree-dwelling herbivores spend most of their time hanging from the tree branches that they feed on and live in. Although sloths make their homes on different tropical trees, their tree of choice is the Cecropia spp. (the cecropia tree), which is also today known as the sloth tree.
Of the 6 species of sloth on the planet, four are Bradypodidae (3-toed) and two are Megalonychidae (2-toed). All sloth species live within the same habitats and feed on similar tree types.
Two-toed sloths are mostly active at night (nocturnal), while three-toed sloths tend to be active both at night and during the day. Similarly, three- toed sloths eat shrubs, leaves, berries and fruits while two- toed sloths eat the same diet but also feed on insects and small rodents.
All sloth varieties inhabit the canopy of trees and move around by climbing among the branches. They also come down once a week to eliminate, although you can also find them swimming in the water bodies around their trees.
Sloths may live in and feed on more than 25 different types of trees. However, their tree of choice is the umbrella- shaped cecropia. They also nest in the crowns of different tropical palms trees, where they can blend in with the trees’ coconuts. This allows them to camouflage to evade potential predators. They also sleep from between 15 – 20 hours daily.
The Bradypus pygmaeus (the pygmy 3-toed sloths) are commonly found off the Panama coast (on Isla Escudo de Veraguas), where the feed and live on the read mangrove trees commonly found on the island.
More on Sloth Habitats
The choice of habitat for this mammal partly depends on their diet of choice. For instance, pregnant sloths love the leaves of the Cecropia eximia and the Lacmellea panamensis trees. Therefore, both of these trees are acceptable habitats for pregnant sloths.
Additionally, some sloths also settle into lianas. Lianas are the tangles of woody vines connecting various tree canopies in rain forests. These vines properly camouflage the sloths against predators. The vines are also sensitive to vibrations caused by approaching predators. Therefore, they serve as early warning systems to allow the sloths to further camouflage themselves, or run and hide from predators.
Threats and Home Range
Preferences for the types of trees that sloths inhabit and eat tend to pass through generations. Sloths are solitary mammals and only seek each other out when they need to mate. Mothers live with the young for their first 6 months to 2 years before the youngsters wander of; usually within the same home range.
Of all the sloth species in the world, the maned 3-toed sloth has now been classified as endangered. The main threats to these mammals are deforestation (due to agriculture and logging) and hunting.
Both the 3-toed and the 2-toed sloth move so slowly that algae grows on their bodies. Therefore, although they are brown- grey in color, they often have a grey- green hue.
Finally, predators rarely bother sloths. Since they are such slow- moving creatures and due to the posture they adopt while hanging on tree branches, they can easily hide from such dangerous predators as jaguars. Overall, these arboreal (tree dwelling) mammals rarely leave their habitats, which further keeps them safe.