This article will answer common questions about sloths such as “What do sloths eat?”. We will also discuss some amazing facts about this slow moving animal.
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Sloths are arboreal animals known for their slow movement and for spending most of their time hanging upside down in the trees of Central America and South America. The six species of sloths are categorized under two groups: three-toed sloths and two-toed sloths. Sloths earned their name because of their low metabolism and deliberate movements because the word sloth is synonymous to the world slow. When on the ground, sloths are almost helpless but they are quite swimmers. Sloths are classified in the order Pilosa just like anteaters. Sloths are 60-80 centimeters long, and based on the type of species, could weigh from 3.6 to 7.7 kgs. Sloths have rounded heads, tiny ears and long limbs. Three-toed sloths have stubby tails around 5-6 cm. long. Sloths can rotate their heads through 270 degrees. Sloths can live up to 20 years in the wild and up to 30 years in captivity. This should cover where do sloths live, how long do sloths live and what do sloths look like. We discuss what do sloths eat next.
What Do Sloths Eat?
Sloths are classified as herbivores or folivores. This alone should answer the question what do sloths eat? They mostly eat buds, leaves, fruits, twigs and sometimes rodents and insects. They could feed however from over 50 different kinds of tree in the tropical rainforests of America, but the cecropia tree species is the sloth’s favorite being a main ingredient in what do sloths eat.
The cecropia tree is a fast growing tree that gives juicy leaves and buds for sloths. The cecropia tree has a relationship with Azteca ants, that thrive inside the trees and get food from it. This is also a defense mechanism that protects the tree from strangers such as sloths. While sloths are in the process of ingesting cecropia leaves, sloths also ingest the ants, another ingredient of what do sloths eat.
The sloths eat all the leaves from different positions. They place a leafy branch inside its mouth and break it off, turning the branch in order to eat the leaves. Even if the cecropia tree is the sloth’s favorite, it is heavily defended by ants, hence, the sloth is going to find other trees that they could eat from. During this process, they will no doubt ingest many forms of insects such as eggs and caterpillars. In addition, the sloth diet could include other insects like fruit flies that are attracted to and captured by the sweet thickness of the fruits.
Two-toed sloths are less picky compared to three-toed sloths when it comes to diet. Two-toed sloths eat bird eggs, rats and mice if they catch them and become part of what do sloths eat. They also eat dry food and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, with grapes being their favorite. Sloths also need water in their bodies, just like all living organisms, in order to survive. They don’t need a lot of water however. They only need the dew that they get from the leaves.
Interesting Facts About Sloths
- Why are sloths slow? Sloths are slow because their metabolism is also very slow. This is why they move at a sluggish and lazy pace through the trees. On the average, sloths move 41 yards every day which is half the length of a football field.
- Female sloths make good mothers. They give birth to a single baby every year during a gestation period of six months. The baby sticks with the mother during 6 months, grasping the belly of the mother while she moves through the trees. This is a very important time of bonding which aids the offspring in learning and developing. Sloths sleep around 15 hours a day. They are only left nine hours to hang about on trees. They also maintain a low body temperature of around 30-34 degrees Celsius and move in and out of shade in order to regulate the body temperature.
- Sloths do not have incisors so they munch buds, twigs and leaves. They trim down leaves by smacking both of their firm lips together. Having a low metabolism also has its advantages. This means that a sloth doesn’t have to eat a lot of food in order to survive. It takes them days to process what seems to be only a matter of hours for other animals.
- Sloths are now endangered and some of the six species are being threatened by loss of habitat.
- Sloths are really strong swimmers. Sometimes, they drop down from the treetops that they are perched on and dive into the water where they use their long limbs to propel.
- Sloths only urinate or defecate once a week.
- Sloths sleep only 10 hours a day.
- Sloths urinate and defecate at the same place every time and makes them vulnerable to watchful predators.
- Algae grows on the fur of sloths and make them green.
- What eats sloths include snakes, jaguars and eagles.
- Even when they die, sloths still retain their grip.
- Sloths are nocturnal mammals.
- The claws of sloths can grow up to four inches and let them hold onto tree branches very efficiently.
- Sloths are lonely creatures who only gather during mating.
- When sloths are in the water, they move 3 times faster than when they are on land and can hold their breaths for up to 40 minutes.
- More than 50% of sloth deaths happen during their once a week trip to dig a hole and defecate.
- Sloths have sex for only 5 seconds.
- Sloths can defecate up to 30% of the weight of their bodies during a single bowel movement.
- Without loss of habitat, sloths are extremely successful in their natural environments. Four out of six species have been rated with “least concern” status before their habitats were threatened.
What do sloths eat? Sloths eat leaves! Even though they could feed from over 50 various types of vegetation in the tropical rainforests, the cecropia tree leaves is the sloth’s main source of food.