Life in the Slow Lane: Two-Toed and Three-Toed Sloths

When you hear the word “sloth,” you might imagine someone or something that is slow and lazy. In fact, there are two different species of sloth: the two-toed sloth and the three-toed sloth. Both do live very slow lives, though they aren't necessarily lazy.

Sloths live in the rain forests of South and Central America, where they eat leaves, bugs, and twigs. They have trouble walking because their back legs are weak and their long claws get in their way. On the ground, away from their home in the trees, they can’t defend themselves from predators.

By spending a lot of time in the trees, sloths are not visible to predators. An algae that grows on their brownish – gray fur allows them to camouflage with the leaves. Sloths hardly ever move or move slowly upside down because this also makes it difficult for predators to see them. But if they do run into predators, sloths defend themselves by clawing and biting their attackers.

Interestingly, sloths sleep and mate while holding onto tree trunks. Without trees, sloths would also not have a place to sleep, eat, or hide. Baby sloths cling to their mothers in trees and nurse here. For nine long months, baby sloths travel by clinging to their mothers' backs. And don’t forget, all this travel is upside down.

Even though they live in the trees and are clumsy on land, sloths are surprisingly good swimmers. Their long arms actually allow them to swim efficiently despite their life in the slow lane.

[Source: Scholastic Encyclopedia Animals]

Nice work, Chris! Love this article--that sloth in the picture is so cute! Great work. – MckennaMadison, WI (2017-02-02 18:28)