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sloth

sloth (slōth, slôth), arboreal mammal found in Central and South America distantly related to armadillos and anteaters. Sloths live in tropical forests, where they sleep, eat, and travel through the trees suspended upside down, clinging to branches with the powerful curved claws of their forelimbs and hindlimbs. Algae that grow on the hair impart a greenish color to the coat, which blends in with the foliage, but the algae are also eaten by the sloths. There is no tail.

The three-toed sloth (Bradypus) is about the size of a house cat, with a dense, furry coat and yellowish face. It has three toes on the front feet and five on the hind feet. In addition to algae, its main food is the leaves, buds, and stems of Cecropia, a tropical relative of the mulberry. The somewhat larger two-toed sloth (Choloepus) has very long hair. It eats a less restricted vegetarian diet. Sloths move sluggishly but can strike swiftly and powerfully if attacked. Huge ground sloths (see megatherium) are extinct forms.

Sloths are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Edentata, families Bradypodidae and Megalonychidae.

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sloth

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).

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sloth

sloth Any of several species of slow-moving, herbivorous Central and South American mammals. It has long limbs with long claws, and spends most of its life climbing in trees, where it generally hangs upside down. Length: to 60cm (2ft); weight: to 5.5kg (12lb). Family Brachipodidae.

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sloth

sloth inactivity, sluggishness XII; S. Amer. arboreal mammal of sluggish habits XVII. ME. slauþe, slouþe, f. slāw, slōw, SLOW + -TH1; repl. OE. slǣwð, ME. sleuþ(e).

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Sloth

Sloth

of bears: a company of bearsBk. of St. Albans, 1486.

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sloth

sloth See BRADYPODOIDEA.

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sloth

slothboth, growth, loath, oath, quoth, sloth, Thoth, troth •outgrowth • upgrowth •undergrowth

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Sloth

Sloth

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 .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bernard Grzimek, Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals (1990).

                                    Sheila L. Hooker

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