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Two-toed Sloths (Choloepus spp.) Fact Sheet, 2009   Tags: bacteria, central america, claws, conservation, fact sheet, fur, hang, mammal, moss, nocturnal, san diego zoo, sdzg, sloth, south america, tree, upside down  

Two-toed Sloths (Choloepus spp.)
Last Updated: May 31, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Two-toed Sloths (Choloepus spp.) Fact Sheet, 2009

Two-toed Sloth

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

TaxonomyPhysical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia – mammals

Order: Pilosa — group of placental mammals found in the Americas, including anteaters and sloths, and extinct ground sloths

Family: Megalonychidae – two-toed sloths

Genus: Choloepus – two-toed sloths

Species: Choloepus didactylus – southern two-toed sloth, Linnaeus's two-toed sloth, Linné's two-toed sloth
Species: Choloepus hoffmanni – Hoffmann's two-toed sloth

Body Weight
4 to 9 kg (10 to 20 lb)

Body Length
540 to 740 mm (21 to 29 in)

Tail Length
23 ± 7 mm (about 1 inch) (C. didactylus)

C. didactylus is uniformly brown. C. hoffmanni is lighter in color; pale throat, darker chest.
Gray-brown/tan hair during dry season. Tinted green in the wet season due to algal growth.

Distribution & StatusBehavior & Ecology

Choloepus didactylus: northern South America (Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela)
Choloepus hoffmanni: 2 separate populations—(1) Nicaragua, south to Venezuela and (2) northcentral Brazil, south to central Bolivia

Tropical and cloud forests with tree crowns connected for tree-to-tree movement

IUCN Status
Least Concern (both species)

CITES Appendix
Choloepus didactylus: not listed
Choloepus hoffmanni: Appendix III

Populations in the Wild
Total populations not reported; see IUCN fact sheets for densities.
Population trends unknown.

Slow, deliberate movement. Agile in trees; move by hooking claws onto branches. Can move on the ground, but can only drag themselves with claws and forelimbs for short distances. Excellent swimmers.

Activity Cycle
Nocturnal; activity begins about one hour following sunset and ceases about two hours before dawn.

Social Groups
Adults typically solitary, unless with mates or young. Females may feed in same tree.

Mainly plants—leaves, twigs, buds, fruit. Occassionally small mammals (rodents) and insects.

Preyed upon by Harpy Eagles, anacondas, jaguars, ocelots, and humans

Reproduction & DevelopmentSpecies Highlights

Sexual Maturity
Females: approximately 3 years of age
Males: approximately 4-5 years of age

10 months

Litter Size

Interbirth Interval
15-16 months

Birth Weight
340-400 g (about 12 oz)

Age at Independence
10-12 months, but may remain with mother up to 2 years; weaned at about one month

In the wild: 10-15 years old
In captivity: over 30 years old

Feature Facts

  • In prehistoric times, sloths were found in the Americas (South, Central, and North Americas), the Caribbean, and Antarctica.
  • Two-toed sloths do everything hanging upside down—eating, sleeping, mating and even giving birth!
  • Unlike most mammals, a sloth's body temperature varies with temperature of environment; fur insulates; moving between sun and shade allows them to regulate their body temperature
  • Four-chambered stomach is filled with bacteria, which helps ferment plant matter consumed
  • Excellent camouflage and slow movements help them elude predators
  • By eliminating waste near the base of trees, sloth fertilize the trees they live in
  • Entirely dependent on forests; losing habitat to ranching, agriculture, loggind, and urban expansion

About This Fact Sheet

© 2009 San Diego Zoo Global. Minor updates to Conservation 2017.

How to cite: Two-toed Sloths (Choloepus spp.) Fact Sheet, 2009. c2009-2017. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Global; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd].
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Sep 10)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Global makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

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