Why Do Sloths Poop on the Ground?

  • Bryson VoirinEmail author
  • Roland Kays
  • Martin Wikelski
  • Margaret Lowman


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.


Sloth Defecation Arboreal mammals 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bryson Voirin
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Roland Kays
    • 3
    • 2
    • 4
  • Martin Wikelski
    • 1
    • 4
  • Margaret Lowman
    • 5
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for OrnithologyRadolfzellGermany
  2. 2.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstitutePanamaRepública de Panamá
  3. 3.North Carolina Museum of Natural SciencesRaleighUSA
  4. 4.North Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  5. 5.North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, North Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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