Sloths are slow-moving edentate mammals found in Central and South America. The sloth's slow movements help protect it from its principal enemy, the jaguar, and the blue-green algae that grow on the sloth's hair allow the animal to blend well with the tree foliage where it spends its time hanging upside down.
The five species of sloths are strictly neotropical in their range. The three species of three-toed sloths (family Bradypodidae) are found throughout much of Central America and the northern two-thirds of South America. Two-toed sloths (family Choloepidae) have a far more limited range, covering most of Central America but only a small part of northwestern South America. The pygmy sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus), found only on a small island off the Panama coast, has been listed since 2006 on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as critically endangered. Other sloth species are not considered threatened or endangered, though they face the same pressures as other animals in the face of humanity's extensive assault on the world's forests.
See alsoEnvironmental Movements .
Bernard Grzimek, Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals (1990).
Sheila L. Hooker
sloth / slô[unvoicedth]; slä[unvoicedth]; slō[unvoicedth]/ • n. 1. reluctance to work or make an effort; laziness. 2. a slow-moving tropical American mammal that hangs upside down from the branches of trees using its long limbs and hooked claws. The families are Bradypodidae (three species of three-toed sloth in genus Bradypus) and Megalonychidae (two species of two-toed sloth in genus Choloepus), order Xenarthra (or Edentata).