Hoffmann's Two-toed Sloth

Associated Smithsonian Expert: Darrin P. Lunde, M.A.

Darrin Lunde on an expedition to the Bandalla Hills of South Sudan in the summer of 2013

Courtesy of Oliver Bench

Darrin Lunde is Collections Manager in the Division of Mammals at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The Mammal Collection is the largest collection of its kind in the world. Darrin started his career by building his own natural history museum when he was just ten years old, and by the time he went to college, he had mastered specimen preservation. After graduating from Cornell University, Darrin was hired by the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where he stayed for twenty years joining field expeditions to the remote corners of South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. He has discovered dozens of new species and shed light on hundreds of other lesser known mammals. Darrin earned a Master of Arts from the City University of New York and much of his interest in museums stems from having grown up in "nature deprived" New York City. To Darrin, museum collections are an important link to nature, and he is driven by the thought that in another century museums may be our only connection to the wild animals we take for granted today. At the Smithsonian, Darrin continues a program of active field work with his goal being to illuminate the rich diversity of mammals with which we still share the world.

Meet our associated expert

This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws.
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Linnaeus's two-toed sloth (Choloepus didactylus) hanging around in a tree
Courtesy of Maris Pukitis, Flickr: EOL Images, CC-BY-NC-SA

About Two-toed Sloths (Family Megalonychidae): Feeding

Two-toed sloths eat plants and occasional small insects, which are available in the trees where they spend nearly all their time. Their diet of mostly leaves, but also fruits, bark, and flowers makes for difficult digestion because plant cells have tough cellulose walls. The two-toed sloth's solution is a large stomach with multiple chambers to help process the plant material. It may take them up to a month to fully digest a meal. Their teeth are specialized for eating vegetation. A pair of front, triangular teeth (caniniforms) look like canines, sharp and pointed for tearing. The rest of the teeth (molariformes) are wide and flat like molars for mashing and grinding. A sloth moves slowly, explaining its low metabolic rate and reduced muscle size. Nearly all its daily energy is used just for finding and processing food. If you are accused of being a sloth, just argue that you are busy digesting.