Sloth: Key Facts

Did you know that sloths cannot regulate their own body temperature? Or that they have existed in the world for over 10,000 years? Read on to learn more about these and other sloth key facts.

Quick Facts About Sloths

Scientific Name:Folivora
Number of Species:6
Physical Description:Small to medium-sized mammal with long limbs, brownish fur, round faces, and long claws. Sloths live in trees, often spending their time hanging upside down from tree limbs, and are known for moving very slowly.
Distribution:Parts of Central and South America
Habitat:Rainforests, coastal forests, and other tropical lowland forests
Average Size:2 to 2 ½ feet long; 8 to 17 pounds
Average Lifespan:20 to 30 years
Diet:Mostly herbivorous; foods include:
– Leaves, twigs, and buds
– Fruit

Sometimes omnivorous; foods include:
– Bird eggs
– Lizards
– Insects
Largest Species:Megatherium (extinct)
Smallest Species:Pygmy three-toed sloth

What Are Sloths?

Sloths are furry mammals that live in trees. They have long arms, long claws, round faces, and shaggy brown fur. 

Sloths are known for being very slow moving animals. They move so slowly and do so little that they are sometimes considered lazy (similarly to koalas), but they move slowly to conserve energy and to avoid drawing unwanted attention from predators

Sloths have been highly adaptable for a long time, as they have existed for over 10,000 years. Surprisingly, they are excellent swimmers

To learn more about sloths, check out this video:

Where Do Sloths Live?

Sloths are found in various regions of Central and South America. 

All sloths live in forests, mostly lowland rainforests and coastal forests. The pygmy three-toed sloth, the smallest species, lives on a tiny tropical island north of Panama.

Sloths live in trees, as noted, high up in the canopy layer of the rainforests. They are picky, preferring to remain in the same kinds of trees they were raised in, living mostly off the leaves, twigs, buds of these trees. 

Interesting Sloth Facts

All of these facts are courtesy of The Sloth Conservation Foundation

  • Sloths are mostly blind: Sloths are born with poor eyesight, and their eyes do not improve over time; they especially struggle to see during daylight hours when the sunshine is bright. They find their way around using their senses of smell, taste, and spatial memory.
  • They swim faster than they walk: Sloths often enjoy going for a swim, and they can move up to three times as fast in the water as they can on land.
  • They can turn their heads 270 degrees: Thanks to an extra vertebrae in their neck, sloths can turn their head all the way around.
  • They are basically cold-blooded mammals: Thanks to a slow metabolism, sloths are unable to regulate their body temperature. They rely on the environment to keep warm and often experience wide temperature fluctuations throughout the day.
  • Their fur hosts an ecosystem: Sloths have the uncanny ability to grow algae on their fur. This algae allows a number of invertebrates to grow and thrive in the sloth’s fur as well.


Sloths are known for being slow, but these sleepy-looking creatures are actually quite fascinating. They live in trees but are excellent swimmers, are mostly blind but can find their way around in other ways, and can support an entire ecosystem of algae and invertebrates in their fur.

Read also about other forest mammals – here are our guides about wolf, armadillo, beaver.

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