Choloepus hoffmani

Two-fingered Slowth*

The more active of Costa Rica’s two slowth* species, the two-fingered slowth* is also the largest with a head and body length of 540 – 740mm and weighing up to 12.5 kg.  Unlike the three-fingered slowth* it has no tail. This species has champagne to buff to dark brown body and light brown to blond face, with brown eye rings. Their hairless, muzzle-like snout is both longer and wider than that of the three-fingered slowth*.  Arms and legs are nearly the same length.

Illustration by Mindy Lighthipe ©2012

 

Instead of the nine cervical vertebrae of the Bradypus, the Choloepus has five c.v’s and a special adaptation on the skull that allows him to rock his head backward at a 45º angle as he hangs from a branch to look for food or danger. The Choloepus is an omnivore, feeding on a wide variety of leaves, flowers, fruits, buds and shoots.  It is even conjectured, from field observations, and published in many journal publications, that small lizards, bird eggs, nestlings and even large insects may contribute to his diet. After 20 years of observing wild sloths we have never seen them eat anything except leaves, flowers, fruits, buds and shoots, therefore we find this ‘observation’ to be questionable!

Considering that most of their life is spent hanging upside down, whether it be to eat, sleep or move about, it is not surprising that the Choloepus has developed short abdominal hair with the side hair flowing towards the mid-back, as this is the most effective way for rain to drain while in their upside down position. The side hair joins the longer rump hair forming a “drip tip” which carries the water off the sloth’s body. The Choloepus prefers to spend its non-foraging time in vine-draped vegetation clusters high in the canopy. For this reason they tend to be more difficult to observe and as a result are the lesser-known of the two species.

It is stated that Choloepus reach sexual maturity between the ages of 4 and 5 years, while females reach reproductive age at around 3 1/2 years. After an 11 month, one week gestation females generally give birth to a single young, however twins are possible. Mothers will allow the second born twin fall to the forest floor, as she is physically unable to raise two infants to social weaning age. Upon birth the infant will cling onto its mother’s abdomen, grasping her long side hair, where it will remain for the next twelve months.  During this time the mother must teach the young slowth* to recognize and chose its food. When the youngster is ready for independence, the mother moves far away from him to other trees within her own territory leaving the newly independent slowth* on his own to find familiar trees to eat. They may encounter one another in the same tree after the adolescent slowth* has become accustomed to an independent, solitary life. The young may associate with the mother for a period of up to 2 years, after which it will only associate with another sloth for the sole purpose of mating.

* Sloth spelled with a “w” is so much more descriptive of these delightfully sloooow creatures than a word that depicts one of the “Seven Deadly Sins”!!  Until a new, improved name is created for each of the two different kinds of slowths, we are working on popularizing this new term.  So…Slowth is Beautiful!

Basic Characteristics

 

  • Two fingers on arms, three toes on legs
  • Opportunistic omnivore; eats leaves, buds, flowers, fruit. It is written in various journals that they will eat eggs and fledglings from bird’s nests, but after 20 years of observing wild sloths, I have never observed this eating behavior, therefore question this statement.
  • Weight: 4.5 – 10.5 kg
  • Long, coarse, wavy champagne blonde to dark brown hair
  • No distinguishing marks on males
  • Round head with protruding muzzle; pale face with short hair
  • Dark circles surrounding the eyes (on some)
  • Larger, almost human-like ears covered with hair
  • Slight smile
  • Eight upper and six lower molars, four canine anterior teeth, no incisors
  • Five cervical vertebrae
  • 42 ribs (21 sets)
  • No tail
  • Arms and legs nearly equal in length
  • External genitalia; internal testicles
  • Gestation: 11 months and one week