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Hoffmann's Two Toed Sloth

Appearance

Hoffmann’s two toed sloths have a coat of long, coarse fur which can range from a dark brown to pale yellow in colour with the face being lighter. Algae growing on their fur can make them appear green. This provides good camouflage. This coat is formed of a long coarse outer coat and dense smooth undercoat that helps provide insulation. These sloths have two fingers with sharp claws on each foot that allow them to latch onto tree branches. These claws can be up to 6.5cm (2.6in) long. Their forelimbs are longer than their hind limbs.

Only three mammals do not have seven cervical vertebrae. Hoffmann’s two toed sloth is one of them. Their vertebrae vary between five and eight which allows their head to turn 180 degrees in either direction.

The head and body measure 54-72cm (21-28in). A stubby tail is present which is just 1.5-3cm (0.59-1.18in) long meaning it cannot be seen through their fur. They weigh between 2.1 and 9kg (4.6 and 19.8lb).

Diet

Hoffmann’s two toed sloth is a herbivore. Most of their diet is tree leaves with the occasional fruit or flower also eaten. On very rare occasions they may eat an insect.

They have a four chambered stomach like a cow. Inside these stomachs are bacteria which break down the plant matter which they ingest.  It may take a month for one meal to be digested. Up to a third of their weight may be in the sloth’s digestive system.

Hoffmann's two toed sloth

Scientific Name

Pteronura brasiliensis

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Weight

2.1-9kg (4.6-19.8lbs)

Length

54-72cm (21-28in)

Lifespan

Wild 15 years

Captive 30 years

Record 43 years

Diet

Herbivorous

Range

South America is home for the Hoffmann’s two toed sloth. Here they can be found in Honduras, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Bolivia.

Habitat

Lowland, cloud and rain forests are where you will find this species. Here they move to the crowns of trees with lianas which cover them from predators. They frequent trees where there crowns interlace allowing movement without needing to move to the ground.

Reproduction

Mating can occur at any time throughout the year but an increase is seen around March and April. Females who are ready to mate will let out a “scream” to alert nearby males. They will then come to meet her. If more than one arrives they fight while hanging by their rear legs. The female initiates mating with the winner of the fight by licking his face.

Ten months after a successful mating a single infant is born while the mother hangs upside down. The infant needs to climb onto her chest to nurse for the first time. It will hang upside down on its own for the first 20-25 days. A month after birth they stop drinking milk and begin feeding on leaves. They may have started tasting leaves earlier though. After five months it is beginning to feed on its own regularly.

After six months mum begins to move the infant on they may continue to associate for up to two years. He makes his home in part of his mother’s home range. At three years of age females become sexually mature while males have to wait till four or five years old for this to happen.

Hoffmann's two toed sloth

Behaviour

Predators of the Hoffmann’s two toed sloth include jaguars, ocelots, large snakes such as the anaconda and birds of prey like the harpy eagle. Humans hunt them for meat and pets.

Their main vocalization is much like the hiss of a deflating balloon. They can also squeal and grunt when they need If distressed they can let out a low bleat. Using a gland on their hind quarters they can scent mark as another means of communication.

Sloths are arboreal creatures who only leave the trees once a week to defecate. They do not even leave the trees to move about. Instead they will wait for the forest to flood and then swim to their next home. They are a nocturnal species with almost all of their activity taking place at night. 15 to 18 hours of their day is spent sleeping.

Quick facts

As the hairs on their face point upwards water runs straight off it.

They have the lowest body temperature of any mammal. This can fluctuate from 24-33oC. It changes as a result of temperature. Due to their low muscle mass they cannot shiver. They need to move in and out of the sun to regulate body temperature.

Hoffmann’s two toed sloths are named for Karl Hoffmann a German naturalist.

As they spend most of their time upside down the heart, live and spleen are located in different places.

Photo Credits

Top

By derivative work: Stevenj (talk)      Original photo by Leyo. (Two-toed sloth Costa Rica.jpg) [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom

Bottom By Geoff Gallice from Gainesville, FL, USA (Two-toed sloth) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

References

Plese, T. & Chiarello, A. 2014. Choloepus hoffmanni. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T4778A47439751. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2014-1.RLTS.T4778A47439751.en. Downloaded on 16 May 2020.

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