Sloths may look and act lazy, but they are actually very well adapted to their slow and sleepy lifestyle. If you know much about sloths, then you probably know that they live in trees in tropical regions. But what layer of the rainforest does the sloth live in? How have they adapted to this lifestyle? And what kinds of food do they eat? Keep reading to find out more!
What You'll Learn Today
Where Do Sloths Live?
Sloths are slow-moving mammals that live in tropical rainforests in South and Central America. The six different species of sloth live in slightly different locations, all of which are fairly small and isolated regions because sloths simply don’t get around much.
Sloths are grouped into two basic types: two-toed and three-toed. Of these types, there are six total species, as outlined below:
- Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth: This sloth lives in the northern parts of South America, between the Andes Mountains in the west, the coastal regions of the east, and the Amazon basin to the south.
- Hoffman’s two-toed sloth: This sloth lives in southern Central America and northern South America, as well as a region of northwestern South America encompassing parts of Brazil, Nicaragua, and Peru.
- Brown-throated three-toed sloth: This sloth is widespread throughout southern Central America and central South America. They are found as far north as Honduras and as far south as Argentina.
- Pale-throated three-toed sloth: This sloth is found in a small region of northeast South America, on the north side of the Amazon River.
- Maned three-toed sloth: This sloth has a very small domain and is found only in the Atlantic forest regions of southeastern Brazil.
- Pygmy three-toed sloth: This sloth is considered critically endangered and is found only on the island of Escudo de Veraguas, north of Panama.
Where Are Sloths in the Rainforest?
As noted above, all sloths live in tropical rainforest regions. But the rainforests of Central and South America are diverse environments with many different layers and ecosystems–which one do sloths live in?
Sloths live and spend almost all of their time in rainforest canopies.
The canopy layer is high up in the trees of the rainforest, consisting of the branches and leaves near the top of the forest. The canopy, or forest “umbrella”, is where many species of birds, insects, and reptiles such as frogs and snakes live.
Sloths hang from tree branches in the canopy, above all the action and danger that exists in lower layers of the rainforest. They are medium-sized mammals, so they generally stay below the tallest, smallest branches where smaller animals live.
Most sloths prefer to live in cecropia trees, which are also known as sloth trees. They move around very slowly and travel from tree to tree by swinging on vines.
Why Do Sloths Live in the Canopy Layer of the Rainforest?
Sloths are designed to live in trees. They don’t move fast, so they have to stay high up to avoid danger from predators lower down in the rainforest.
Most sloths have brown fur that helps them easily blend in against the brown of tree branches and vines. They can sit still for long periods of time to further avoid the searching eyes of predators that depend on movement to find their prey.
Sloths simply are not made for walking around on the ground–their low muscle mass and body structure makes them much more adapted to hanging in trees. What’s more, they are incapable of moving fast, and they move even more slowly on the ground, so they would make easy prey for predators if they spent much time out of the canopy.
How Do Sloths Adapt to the Rainforest?
Sloths are native to the rainforests of south and central America. They have adapted over time to the conditions they live in now.
For example, the sloth’s close relatives, the ground sloths, are now extinct. The sloths still in existence have been around for more than 10,000 years, and a big reason for this is that they adapted to living in trees, where they are safer from predators.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, sloths are surprisingly talented swimmers–they will sometimes drop down from the tree branches into ponds and rivers to go for a swim. Most of the time, though, they simply hang out in the trees, moving about 40 yards a day and sleeping for up to 20 hours.
These characteristics of sloths are a big part of what has allowed them to adapt to life in the rainforest.
What Do Sloths Eat in the Tropical Rainforest?
Sloths are herbivores–their diet consists almost entirely of leaves, twigs, and tree buds.
That said, they may occasionally eat other plant foods, such as fruit. Sometimes they will even eat bird eggs, small insects, and reptiles.
Sloths’ diet may vary depending on species and region. For example, pygmy three-toed sloths subsist entirely on leaves of different trees, while Hoffman’s two-toed sloths eat a lot of animal foods such as lizards, eggs, and baby birds to supplement their leaf-based diet.
One interesting thing about sloths is that they don’t have to drink water, as they obtain all that they need from their food.
To find out more about a sloth’s diet, check out the following video:
Sloths live in the canopy layer of the rainforests of Central and South America. With their long limbs, hooked paws and claws, and low metabolism, they are well-designed for spending much of their lives hanging in trees.
Because sloths are slow-moving animals, living in trees has the added benefit of keeping them out of harm’s way. They tend to live high above most predators in the rainforest, and their ability to remain still for long periods of time typically keeps predators from seeing them in the first place.