Brown-throated Sloth, Bradypus variegatus

The brown-throated sloth (Bradypus variegatus) is a species of three-toed sloth that can be found in Central and South America. Its range extends from Honduras through Nicaragua, Panama, and Costa Rica to Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela and eastern areas of Peru. It is not thought to reside in the Amazon rainforest or in areas east of the Rio Negro. This species resides in a number of habitats including disturbed habitats, evergreen forests, and arid forests at elevations of up to 3,900 feet, although individuals have been recorded at higher elevations. It holds seven subspecies, some of which cannot be easily distinguished.

The brown-throated slot reaches an average body length of seventeen to thirty-one inches and a weight between five and fourteen pounds. As is typical to other members of its genus, this species has three fingers with long, curved claws that reach a length of up to 3.1 inches. Its head is round and holds short, rounded ears. It is beige to greyish brown in color, with dark brown fur occurring along its neck, forehead, and cheeks. The face holds lighter fur and dark fur extending from each eye. The guard hairs, which cover a soft layer of fur, are thick and cracked, allowing many species of algae to flourish on older adults. The fur is also home to the moth species Cryptoses choloepi, which lays its eggs in the sloth’s feces.

The brown-throated slot is active for a few hours during the night or day, spending fifteen to eighteen hours per day sleeping. This species is arboreal, preferring to live in trees, although it can swim and will climb to the ground to defecate every eight days. Members of this species are solitary and hold home ranges of up to twenty-two acres. Individuals will move about through up to forty trees, often choosing a certain species to consume more than other species.

The breeding season for the brown-throated slot is thought to occur between the months of January and March in northern areas of its range. Females are thought to attract males by emitting a loud screech that is similar to human female’s cry. Seven months after breeding, females give birth to one young, which has already developed its fur and claws. Although young are weaned at four to five weeks of age, they will remain attached to their mother’s underbelly for over five months. It is thought that young consume leaf particles as early as four days after birth and will develop a preference for their mother’s favorite leaf types. Predators that consume this species include harpy eagles and jaguars. In captivity, it has lived for up to three years and it appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Least Concern.”

Image Caption: Three-toed-sloth (Bradypus variegatus), Lake Gatun, Republic of Panama. Credit: Stefan Laube/Wikipedia