Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Brown-throated Sloth

Bradypus variegatus
There are four species of Three-toed Sloth in the world, and the Brown-throated Sloth is the most common of the bunch. They can be found in different forested areas of Central and South America, typically living at elevations below 4,000ft.

Brown-throated Sloths can walk on the ground (kind of...), and they can even swim, but they spend almost all of their time up in the trees. They sleep as much as 18 hours a day, though 14-16 is more common. They are active the rest of the time, feeding and moving and protecting their territory, but only in 2-3 hour bursts.

The home range for a Brown-throated Sloth is pretty small-- only around a dozen acres. In this range they will move from tree to tree, feeding slowly on different leaves and fruits. Their metabolism is so slow that it can take a month to digest a single meal! In fact, the Sloths will usually only descend from their arboreal homes in order to go to the bathroom. This happens only once every eight days!

Brown-throated Sloth
Brown-throated Sloths have some interesting anatomical features, including their hair-- each follicle has multiple cracks on the surface. These cracks are the prefect places for algae to grow. The algae get a nice host to live on, and the Sloths get some extra camouflage. But the algae aren't the only passengers that the sloth has. A species of moth, Cryptoses choloepi lives in the Sloth fur and lays its eggs in the Sloth's dung.

Other strange anatomy facts? Brown-throated Sloths have 10 cervical vertebrae, and can rotate their necks 270 degrees. They also have a lot of trouble regulating their body temperature due in part to their small hearts and lack of muscle mass. This is why Sloths are only found in tropical warm areas.

Females sloths will make loud vocalizations in order to attract a mate. A male will come to her, and she will usually mate with the first one to show up. After copulation the male leaves, and the female goes through the 5-8 month gestation period alone. They give birth either on the ground or in trees, and the young sloth will cling to its mother's underside for up to 5 months. They wean quickly but stick around for much longer to learn important Sloth skills from mom, including motor skills and which leaves are best to eat.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : South and Central America
Size : Length up to 31in (80cm), Weight up to 14lbs (6.3kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Pilosa
Family : Bradypodidae -- Genus : Bradypus -- Species : B. variegatus

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