Diet of Three-Toed Sloths

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Three-toed sloths live in the rain forests of South America and Central America.
Three-toed sloths live in the rain forests of South America and Central America. (Image: rainforest image by Egor Ukoloff from Fotolia.com)

Three-toed sloths are native to the rain forest of Central America and South America. Three-toed sloths are the slowest animals in the world, moving so slowly from tree limb to tree limb that green algae grows on their fur. Because of this, three-toed sloths often appear to have a green tint. Three-toed sloths have three long claws on each front foot. This is where they get their name.

Feeding Hours

Three-toed sloths are nocturnal. They sleep most of the day and feed at night in the treetops of the rainforest. Sloths can sleep for about 15 hours of the day.

Sloths spend the daytime hours sleeping and feed only at night.
Sloths spend the daytime hours sleeping and feed only at night. (Image: seaside rainforest natural. image by mdb from Fotolia.com)

Diet

Three-toed sloths feed on leaves high in the trees as well as shoots, buds, berries and fruits. Two-toed sloths eat diets is similar to the three-toed sloth, but with the addition of insects and small prey such as birds. Though the three-toed sloths are rarely on the ground, they do crawl down the trunk of a tree to crawl on the ground to another tree to feed. Some of the leaves the three-toed sloth eats have toxic chemicals on them, which is the plant’s natural protection. Sloths possess a complex and strong digestive system and can digest these plants.

Three-toed sloths feed on fruits and leaves high in the treetops.
Three-toed sloths feed on fruits and leaves high in the treetops. (Image: Tropical fruits image by Elzbieta Sekowska from Fotolia.com)

Water

Three-toed sloths rarely drink water because they get most of their moisture from succulent plants and fruits found in the rain forest. They also get moisture from licking dew off of leaves.

Three-toed sloths can get moisture by licking the dew off leaves.
Three-toed sloths can get moisture by licking the dew off leaves. (Image: dew image by fafoutis from Fotolia.com)

Cecropia Trees

According to Passport to Knowledge, three-toed sloths were once thought to feed only from the leaves of the cecropia tree. Sloths do eat the leaves from the cecropia tree often, but they also enjoy leaves from many other kinds of trees.

Metabolism

The three-toed sloth has a slow metabolism and does not require a lot of food. They don’t expend a lot of energy and thus, don’t need to eat as much as other animals. Three-toed sloths also have extremely slow digestive systems.

Teeth

Like some rodents, three-toed sloths’ front teeth grow continuously. They wear these teeth down by grinding their food when they chew. If the three-toed sloth’s teeth get too long, it will be unable to feed and can starve to death.

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