Sloths are tropical mammals that live in Central and South America. They use their long claws to hang onto branches while they feast on the leaves that other animals can’t reach. Unfortunately for the sloth, their long claws — 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 centimeters) — make walking on the ground difficult, so they spend most of their time in the tall trees they call home.There are two categories of sloths. The two-toed sloth is slightly bigger than the three-toed sloth, though they share many of the same features. They are about the size of a medium-sized dog at around 23 to 27 inches (58 to 68 cm) and 17.5 to 18.75 pounds (about 8 kilograms).Thousands of years ago, sloths were much bigger, according to the San Diego Zoo. Ancient sloths could grow to be as large as an elephant. They roamed North America and became extinct around 10,000 years ago.
Though their ancestors lived in North America, modern sloths live in Central and South America, enjoying the tall trees found in rain and cloud forests. Sloths prefer sleeping while curled into a ball in the fork of a tropical tree. They also like to sleep hanging by their claws from tree branches.For the most part, a sloth’s life revolves around sleeping and eating in their tree homes. The only times these mammals leave their tree is to use the bathroom and to take a swim.Sloths in captivity sleep from 15 to 20 hours per day, which can leave them very little time for social activities. Sloths in the wild, though, sleep about as much as humans, according to research by the Planck Institute for Ornithology in Starnberg, Germany.After around nine hours of sleep, the sloth still doesn’t make an attempt at getting friendly with others. They live solo lives. The closest a sloth gets to social time is sleeping in the same tree with another sloth.
Sloths mate in trees and give birth to their young in trees. Courting starts when a female yells a mating scream to let the males in the area know she is ready to mate. Males will fight for her by hanging from branches by their feet and pawing at each other. The victor wins the prize of mating with the female.Like many other mammals, sloths only have one baby at a time. Baby sloths have a gestation of five to six months for some types sloths and as much as 11.5 months for others, such as the Hoffman’s two-toed sloth.After they are born, the babies aren’t in a hurry to leave their mother. They ride around clinging to their mother’s belly for several weeks after birth. Even after they stop dangling from their mother, little sloths stay by their mother’s side for up to four years.