Why Do Sloths Poop on the Ground?
The bizarre ground-based defecation behavior of two- and three-toed sloths remains one of the most paradoxical and humorous mysteries in canopy biology. Both two-toed (Choloepus sp.) and three-toed (Bradypus sp.) sloths defecate and urinate only once every 4–8 days in the wild. Although all other arboreal mammals release their excrement from the forest canopy, all sloths climb down from the treetops and relieve themselves on the forest floor. In the canopy, sloths have few predators, but on the ground, sloths expose themselves to great variety of predators. There must be some defining reason behind this high-risk behavior.
KeywordsSloth Defecation Arboreal mammals
- Beebe W (1926) The three-toed sloth. Bradypus cucullinger cucullinger Wagler. Zoologica 7:1–67Google Scholar
- Buffon BGEL (1848) Oeuvres completes de Buffon. Volume 4. Au Bureaudes publications illustrees, Paris, FranceGoogle Scholar
- Goffart M (1971) Function and form in the sloth. Pergamon Press, Oxford/New York/Sydney/Toronto/BraunschweigGoogle Scholar
- Leigh E (1999) Tropical forest ecology: a view from Barro Colorado Island. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- McNab BK (1978) Energetics of arboreal folivores: physiological problems and ecological consequences of feeding on an ubiquitous food supply. In: Montgomery GG (ed) The ecology of arboreal folivores. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
- Montgomery GG, Sunquist ME (1975) Impact of sloths on neotropical forest energy flow and nutrient cycling. In: Golley FB, Medina E (eds) Tropical ecological systems, Trends in terrestrial and aquatic research. Springer, New York, 293 ppGoogle Scholar
- Rettig N (1978) Breeding behavior of the Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja). The Auk 95:629–643Google Scholar
- Touchton J, Hsu YC, Palleroni A (2002) Foraging ecology of reintroduced captive–bred subadult Harpy Eagles (Harpia harpyja) on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Ornithol Neotrop 13:365–379Google Scholar
- Young OP (1981) The utilization of sloth dung in a neotropical forest. Coleopterists Bull 35(4):427–430Google Scholar