Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Two-Toed Sloth

Choloepus didactylus

Physical Description:

Two-toed sloths are 21 to 29 inches long and weigh about 9 to 17 pounds. Their brownish-gray fur curves from the stomach to the back, unlike most mammals, allowing rain to run off. The fur is usually home to algae, which help camouflage these rainforest canopy animals. Their long curved claws allow them to hang from branches. They move along branches with a hand-over-hand motion.

Home Range:

Central America and northern South America, including Peru and Brazil


Tropical rainforest canopies


Leaves, twigs, and fruits


Single young, born after gestation of five to six months. The young clings to its mother's belly for a few weeks, until it has the strength to move on its own. The gestation of the other species of two-toed sloths, Hoffman's two-toed sloth, lasts about 11 and a half months.

Social Structure:

Sloths generally lead solitary lives, although several females may be found in the same tree. Active during the night.


Jaguars, ocelots, and other cats prey on sloths.

Fun Facts:

Sloths are in the same order—Xenarthra—as armadillos and anteaters. They live only in the New World (North and South America). The order used to be called Edentata ("without teeth"); all xenarthrans lack canines and incisors but only anteaters have no teeth. Giant armadillos may have as many as 100 rudimentary teeth. Sloths generally have 18 teeth.

A sloth's temperature can vary by more than ten degrees Fahrenheit, changing according to the surrounding temperature.

Although sloths spend most of their lives hanging upside down in trees and can crawl on the ground for short distances, they are good swimmers.