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Three-Toed Tree Sloths: Bradypodidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Three-toed sloths live upside down. They sleep, mate, and give birth in that position. Sloths are solitary. They are also polygynous (puh-LIH-juh-nus), meaning that males mate with more than one female. Sloths breed at any time during the year. The male leaves after mating, and the female bears usually one young within five to six months. She carries this offspring with her for up to a year. During this time, the young sloth develops a taste for the leaves on which its mother feeds.


The identification of a new three-toed tree sloth species in 2001 was a living lesson in evolution. The monk sloth is also known as the pygmy sloth because it is 20 percent smaller than the three other Bradypus species. The new species lives only on Escudo de Veraguas Island, part of the Boca del Toro islands located off the east coast of Panama. Monk sloths live in red mangrove trees and are thought to be polygynous.

Three-toed sloths are active during the day and night. During the day, they position themselves in trees so that the sun warms them. They sleep as much as eighteen hours each day.

Sloths use their claws as hooks to move through trees. They move slowly and travel at most 125 feet (38 meters) in a day. Their on-ground speed is 15 yards (13.7 meters) per minute. In the water, three-toed sloths swim well. Sloths also use their claws as a defense against predators like hawks, harpy eagles, boa constrictors, and anacondas, a type of snake.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsThree-Toed Tree Sloths: Bradypodidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth (bradypus Variegatus): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, THREE-TOED TREE SLOTHS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS