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Sloths

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The three-toed is diurnal, the two-toed nocturnal

Though related to anteaters, sloth are not true edentates as they have a few rudimentary teeth. They also share skeletal characteristics such as extra joint surfaces between the vertebrae (hence a new sub-order, the Xenarthra, from the Greek 'strange joint'). All five species are found only in the Neotropics; the two Costa Rican species are the Brown-throated three-toed sloth (perezoso de tres dedos; Bradypus variegatus) and the Hoffmann's two-toed sloth (perezoso de dos dedos; Choloepus hoffmann).

The diurnal three-toed sloth is often sighted, whereas the nocturnal two-toed sloth is less often seen. Both are 50 to 75cm in length with stumpy tails. The tree-toed is grayish brown with a distinctive gray-and-white mask on the face; the two-toed is generally a tan color. Sloths often hang motionless from branches or lowly progress upside down along a branch towards leaves, which are their primary food. Digestion of the tough takes several days and sloth defecate about once a week.

They are infrequently sighted on the ground, where their gait is clearly uncomfortable. They are sexually mature at three years and females then have a baby most years. the baby is carried on the mother's chest for 5½ months, feeding on milk for a few weeks but soon taught to eat leaves. The relationship between mother and offspring is close but not deep during this period - the youngster stays on or perishes. A baby that falls off its mother is ignored. Some favorite leaves are from the Cecropia tree (although others are also eaten). These are common trees on riverbanks in the rainforest; this is the best place to spot sloth in the wild.

Pictures by Angela and Jörn Malek. The team of Discovery Travel World wishes you the best of times in our little paradise called Costa Rica.

Text by Lonely Planet.


Picture 1, Sloths, Costa RicaPicture 2, Sloths, Costa Rica
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