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Facts about Sloths for Kids


Sloths are medium-sized mammals belonging to the families Megalonychidae and Bradypodidae, classified into six species. Extant sloths are arboreal residents of the jungles of Central and South America, and are known for being slow-moving, and hence named “sloths”. Extinct sloth species include many ground sloths.

  • The sloth’s taxonomic suborder is Folivora, while some call it Phyllophaga.
  • As much as two-thirds of a well-fed sloth’s body-weight consists of the contents of its stomach, and the digestive process can take a monthor more to complete.
  • Four of the six living species are presently rated “least concern”; the maned three-toed sloth, which inhabits Brazil’s dwindling AtlanticForest, is classified as “endangered”, while the island-dwelling pygmy three-toed sloth.
  • Sloth fur exhibits specialized functions: the outer hairs grow in a direction opposite from that of other mammals.
  • In most mammals hairs grow toward the extremities, but because sloths spend so much time with their legs above their bodies, their hairs grow away from the extremities in order to provide protection from the elements while the sloth hangs upside down.
  • Despite sloths’ apparent defenselessness, predators do not pose special problems: sloths blend in with the trees and, moving only slowly, do not attract attention.
  • The few exceptions include manatees and two-toed sloths, which each have only six cervical vertebrae, and three-toed sloths with nine cervical vertebrae.
  • However, their adaptations belie the actual relationships of the living sloth genera, which are more distant from each other than their outward similarity suggests.
  • The two-toed sloths of today are far more closely related to one particular group of ground sloths than to the living three-toed sloths.
  • The latter possibility seems slightly more likely, given the fact that the small ground sloths Acratocnus and Neocnus which were also able to climb are among the closer relatives of the two-toed sloths, and that these together were related to the huge ground sloths Megalonyx and Megalocnus.
  • The famous Megatherium, for example, belonged to a lineage of ground sloths that was not very close to the living sloths and their ground-living relatives, like the small Neocnus or the massive Megalonyx.
  • Meanwhile, Mylodon, among the last ground sloths to disappear, was only very distantly related to either of these.