Two-toed sloths are found in the neotropical forest canopies of Central America and northern South America, including portions of Brazil and Peru.
Two-toed sloths are strictly arboreal, living high in the tropical rainforest canopy and maintaining a range of about 10-acres.
Two-toed sloths are herbivores that eat primarily leaves, small twigs, and fruits. On occasion sloths have been known to eat insects and other small prey. They obtain water from the vegetation they eat and lick rainwater or dew from leaves.
Two-toed sloths weigh between 9 and 18 pounds and range in length from 21 to 29 inches.
Two-toed sloths are covered in long brownish-grey hair that curves from stomach to back, opposite that of most mammals, so that rainwater is guided away from their bodies. A unique feature of this fur is that each strand has a groove which collect algae, giving the sloth a greenish tint, thus camouflaging it from predators.
The teeth of the two-toed sloth are small, simple molars that are continuously growing but constantly worn down by the mastication of food. To compensate for a lack of sharp teeth, two-toed sloths have hardened lips that act to shear and crop leaves.
The average life span of two-toed sloths is 20 years in the wild, but ages of 30 to 40 years have been recorded in captivity
Females of this species of sloth reach sexual maturity at 3 years of age, males reach sexual maturity between 4 and 5 years of age. After a gestation period of six months, females give birth to one offspring each year. When the young are born they are about 10 inches in length and weigh about 12 ounces. They cling to their mother’s belly for 5 weeks until they have the strength to move on their own.
Two-toed sloths have been called the slowest animals on earth, moving through the trees carefully and deliberately. They spend most of their life hanging upside-down from tree branches, whether sleeping, eating, mating, or giving birth. They descend to the ground only to change trees (food source) or to defecate. They have a low metabolic rate and defecate only once each week. Food remains in their relatively short digestive tract for approximately one month. Two-toed sloths can move around quite well in the trees (125 feet per day), but are significantly less mobile on the ground, dragging their body across the ground. Sloths are also good swimmers, having a streamlined body and fur that has evolved for wet, tropical weather.
These sloths are nocturnal animals that sleep for about 15 hours during the day, and waking during the night only to feed. The sloths eat by grasping vegetation with one foot and pulling it to their mouths.
Two-toed sloths are well camouflaged in tree canopies. Their most common resting position is curled into a ball in the branches of a tree and resembles a termite nest, clump of leaves, or clump of moss. This, combined with the green color of their fur, makes for great protection from predators. Sloths have been known to defend themselves with their claws and teeth, but they are usually quite docile, relying primarily on camouflage to avoid predation. Two-toed sloths are mostly silent, but can let out hisses and low cries or moans if distressed.
Two-toed sloths are relatively solitary mammals. Groups of females sometimes occupy the same tree, and young may inherit the home range of their parents.
IUCN Red List:
US Federal List:
No special status.
Two-toed sloths are in serious danger of losing their habitat due to logging of rain forests. Aside from captive animals, this is the only area in the world in which this species lives. Several organizations are currently working to protect these areas.
Felton-Church, A. 2000. “Choloepus didactylus” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 09, 2006 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Choloepus_didactylus.html.