Final: A Biological and Ecological Overview of the Two-toed and Three-toed Sloth

This topic submitted by Amy Seitz ( at 6:46 PM on 5/15/05.

Every now and then we catch a Boa Constrictor, Drake Bay, Costa Rica!

Tropical Field Courses -Western Program-Miami University

I chose this topic because of the ecological significance associated with these mammals. Originally thought to be poorly adapted for the tropics, the sloth has more recently been realized to have adapted in a variety of ways, many of which contribute to the survival and reproduction of other forest organisms. The paper will include an overview of the biological characteristics of the two species of sloth found in Costa Rica, and will also cover the ecological significance of these species.

Sloths of Costa Rica

I. Species of sloths
A. Brown Throated Three-toed (Bradypus variegatus)
1. Characteristics
a. Physical
i. Heavy fur that provides insulation
ii. Three claws on the feet
b. Behavioral
i. diurnal
2. Habitat– Upper level of the forest canopy
B. Two-toed (Choloepus hoffmani)
1. Characteristics
a. Physical
i. larger in size than the three-toed
ii. two claws on the front feet
b. Behavioral
i. nocturnal
2. Habitat – more confined to primary forests than three-toed
II. General information
A. Movement
1. sleeps about 18 hours a day
2. move to new trees approx. every day and a half
B. Food/Digestion
1. Feeds primarily on leaves of the Cecropia Tree, and other tree species
2. Slow metabolic rate
3. Ruminant-like stomach - Slow digestion
4. Defecation and urination occurs weekly at base of trees
C. Predators
1. Harpy Eagles
D. Reproduction
1. sexual maturity at 3 years
2. six month gestation
3. birth about once a year
III. Ecological significance
A. Algae/mold on fur serves to feed various insects
B. Sloth moths
C. Defecation at tree base
IV. Aviarios del Caribe Sloth Refuge in Costa Rica
A. Research and rehabilitation
1. Only sloth refuge in the world
2. Rehabilitate and reintroduce injured sloths
B. Education
1. environmental education programs for local schools
2. Established the Buttercup Foundation – proceeds are used to purchase more land for protection and to educate public

1. Baker, Christopher. Mammals. Online at Viewed on 5/14/05.
2. The Three-toed sloth. Online at viewed on 5/14/05.
3. Gould, Stephen Jay. April 1996. Can we truly know sloth and rapacity? Natural History. Vol 105(4) pg 18 – 26.
4. Klien, Lori. East does it for the two-toed sloth. The California Native International Newsletter. Online at Viewed on 5/13/05.
5. CentralAmerica.Com: Your Travel Specialists. Online at Viewed on 5/14/05.
6. Baker, Christopher. Moon Travel Planner. Aviarios del Caribe Sloth Refuge. Online at Viewed on 5/14/05.
7. Gaudin, Timothy. February 2004. Phylogenetic relationships among sloths (Mammalia, Xenarthra, Tardigrada): the craniodental evidence. Zoological Journal of Linnean Society. Vol 140 (2): 255-305.

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