two toed vs three toed sloth

Why You Should Come and Visit Tanganyika’s Two-Toed Sloth

Sloths have taken the internet and the world by storm over the last 15 years. Whether it’s because we’re jealous of their ability to tackle life in slow motion or just fascinated with their uniqueness, there’s no doubt sloths are a popular favorite.  In this blog, we’ll embark on a journey into the realm of two-toed sloths, fascinating creatures that capture the hearts of animal enthusiasts and conservationists al two-toed slothike.

We’ll also dive into the differences between two-toed sloths and three-toes sloths since most people, especially graphic artists don’t know the difference. We’ll provide a plethora of fun sloth facts and give you some tips on where to meet a sloth. 


Two-Toed vs Three-Toed Sloth: 4 Differences

Many people might not know there are SIX different species of sloths. We’ll focus mostly on the differences between Two-Toed vs. Three-Toed Sloths.  Contrary to what their names suggest, the difference lies not only in the number of toes but also in their physiology and habitat. 

There is only one facility in the United States that houses three-toed sloths. The Dallas World Aquarium flies fresh browse in daily to care for the extremely picky three-toed sloths. So when we’re shopping for merchandise for our gift shop at Tanganyika Wildlife Park we are picky about getting two-toed vs. three-toed sloth merchandise. 

The conversations with graphic artists at the magnet, t-shirt, and souvenir companies is often humorous. When asking artists to redesign something from a three-toed sloth to a two-toed sloth we often get attempts like this, even when we explain the difference. two toed vs three toed sloth

Graphic designers aren’t the only ones confused. Most people think there’s nothing more to the two-toed vs. three-toed sloth differences beyond counting toes. However, they are so different that they are in two different families. 

Two-toed sloths, belonging to the Megalonychidae family, are known for their unique facial markings and larger size compared to the three-toed variety, which falls under the Bradypodidae family. Understanding these nuances adds an extra layer of appreciation for these slow-moving arboreal mammals.

  1. Toe Count: A Deceptive Dichotomy – At first glance, the apparent differences lie in the number of toes—two for the Megalonychidae family (two-toed sloths) and three for the Bradypodidae family (three-toed sloths). 
  2. Physiological Disparities: Beyond the Digits – 
    1. Size: two-toed sloths are generally two times larger in size than three-toed sloths
    2. Face: Two-toed sloths have a pig-like nose while three-toed sloths have the characteristic mask
    3. Neck vertebrae: Three-toed sloths have 9 neck vertebrae while two-toed sloths have 5. Resulting in greater mobility and flexibility. Three-toed sloths look at the world right-side up while two-toed sloths typically see the world upside down. 
    4. Arms and legs:  Two-toed sloths’ arms and legs are relatively the same lengths while three-toed sloths’ arms are a lot longer than their legs. 
    5. Shorter Torso: Three-toed sloths also have a shorter torso with only 28 ribs two-toed sloths have 46 ribs.
  3. Behavioral Variances: The Sloth Lifestyle Unveiled
    1. Activity level: Two-toed sloths are generally more active than three-toed sloths.  
    2. Diet: The two-toed sloth vs. three-toed sloths differences in diet contribute to why there are more two-toed sloths in human care. Two-toed sloths have a more varied diet that includes leaves, buds, and fruits which means they can adapt to new diets more easily. On the contrary, three-toed sloths maintain a more specialized herbivorous diet, predominantly consisting of tree leaves. 
  4. Habitat Preferences: A Home Among the Trees
    1. Flexibility: Two-toed sloths thrive in both tropical rainforests and deciduous forests, showcasing their adaptability to diverse ecosystems. Meanwhile, three-toed sloths predominantly inhabit tropical rainforests, demonstrating a preference for a specific ecological niche.

So you might just think that we’re crazy animal people when we get particular about the differences between the two, but hopefully, now you’ll see that the differences run deep. 

If you’re not quite convinced let’s talk about convergent vs. divergent evolution. Convergent evolution is when two species develop similar characteristics without sharing a common ancestor. Divergent evolution is when two species share a common ancestor and therefore similar traits. 

Two-toed sloths are more closely related to prehistoric ground sloths than they are three-toed sloths. Sloths are an excellent example of convergent evolution at work. 

Want to learn more about sloths and where to meet them in the U.S.? Read our blog.

13 Other Interesting Facts About Sloths 

Now, let’s unravel some fun facts about sloths that make them such endearing creatures. From facts about sloths being mini eco-systems to how much urine their bladders can hold, here are some of our favorite facts. 

  1. Cheeseburger armpits: While many are aware that the sloths are covered in algae, few know that this symbiotic relationship can give sloths a greenish tint. The algae not only provides camouflage but also provides a light snack when needed. Imagine being able to have a snack in your armpit whenever you get hungry
  2. Slow Metabolism: Sloths have an exceptionally slow metabolism, allowing them to survive on a low-energy diet of leaves. This characteristic not only dictates their unhurried pace but also makes them surprisingly eco-friendly in terms of carbon footprint compared to other mammals. In fact, it can take up to a month for food to move through their system. 
  3. Master of the Backstroke: Sloths are proficient swimmers and can cross bodies of water with surprising agility. Their long arms and strong claws assist them in a backstroke motion, showcasing a skill not often associated with these arboreal animals. This is more characteristic of the three-toed vs. two-toed sloth. 
  4. Mossy Mansions in the Canopy: Some sloths have been observed cultivating a cozy abode of moss on their fur, turning their bodies into miniature ecosystems. This mossy addition not only provides insulation but also offers a convenient spot for other organisms to thrive.
  5. Sloth Self-Grooming Rituals: Sloths are meticulous groomers, using their specialized claws to comb through their fur. What sets them apart is their dedication to personal hygiene – they even groom their own fur in the rain, showcasing a commitment to cleanliness that defies the norm.
  6. Remarkable Memory: Contrary to the common perception of sloths as forgetful creatures, studies have shown that sloths possess a remarkable memory, especially when it comes to the locations of preferred trees and feeding spots. This cognitive ability aids them in navigating their arboreal homes. facts about sloths
  7. Harmonic Mating Calls: Sloths may not be known for their vocal prowess, but during the mating season, male three-toed sloths emit a unique, call to attract potential mates. This surprising vocal talent adds a touch of romance to their usually quiet and solitary lives.
  8. Innovative Insect Farms: Sloths have been observed cultivating insect colonies in their fur, creating a mobile ecosystem that provides them with a convenient and sustainable source of food. Many a zookeeper has been spooked by an insect friend crawling out of the fur of one of their sloth charges. 
  9. Leisurely Muscles, Marathon Endurance: Sloths possess muscles that contract at a considerably slower pace compared to many other mammals. While a cat or rabbit may contract muscles rapidly for bursts of speed, sloths take their time. However, what makes them truly unique is their endurance. Sloth muscles can stay contracted for an extended duration without fatigue, allowing them to maintain a slow and deliberate movement for extended periods. This adaptation aligns with their energy-conserving lifestyle in the treetops.
  10. Many stomachs: The complexity of their stomachs, featuring multiple compartments, facilitates the breakdown of tough plant materials. Additionally, their digestive process plays a crucial role in fostering a mutualistic relationship with bacteria, helping to break down cellulose and extract essential nutrients from their fibrous meals.
  11. A gallon of urine: Sloth bladders can hold up to a gallon of urine. Meaning their weight can fluctuate by up to 5 pounds before and after bathroom visits. 
  12. Weekly outhouse trip: Speaking of bathroom visits, sloths typically only go to the ground to go to the bathroom once/week. While that might make it sound like sloths would be easy to take care of think again. The aroma of 5 pounds of urine and feces even once a week is a lot to endure. 
  13. Different families: Like we mentioned before two-toed vs. three toed sloths are very different. So different they aren’t even in the same taxonomic family. 
  14. Reclusive: Most of the facts about sloths in their native environment is actually about the three-toed sloth. The two-toed sloth lives higher in the canopy and is faster moving making it more reclusive and less likely to be observed. 

Not only are most of our facts about sloths focused on three-toed sloths but we have more pictures and images of three-toed sloths as well. Two-toed sloth pictures are harder to get and apparently artists don’t imagine two-toed sloths when they think about them. 

Experience a Behind-The-Scenes with Tanganyika’s Two-Toed Sloth 

If you’ve read this entire blog, you’re probably either my mom or a sloth fanatic. If you want to get upclose and personal with a two-toed sloth Tanganyika is the perfect place to visit. You can touch our sloths, feed them their favorite snacks, and witness their pig noses and sleep nature in their own habitat. 

Tanganyika Wildlife Park is a destination for animal experiences. Our commitment goes beyond mere observation; it’s about inspiring individuals to become stewards of animals and their environments.

Go on a sloth behind-the-scenes tour at Tanganyika to witness firsthand the dedication of our passionate team, contributing to the well-being and conservation of these incredible creatures. Join us in creating memorable moments and fostering a commitment to the stewardship of animals. 

For more on sloths at Tanganyika, read our blog and schedule your visit to Tanganyika today.

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