Tropical Ecological Systems pp 69-98

Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 11) | Cite as

Impact of Sloths on Neotropical Forest Energy Flow and Nutrient Cycling

  • G. G. Montgomery
  • M. E. Sunquist

Abstract

We report a field study of the role of two-toed and three-toed sloths (Choloepus hofjmani and Brady pus injuscatus) in neotropical forest energy flow and nutrient cycling. Sloths are arboreal herbivores with stomachs and digestive processes showing convergence with the ruminants (reviewed by Goffart, 1971). Sloth stomach anatomy and histology, which includes provision for long-term retention of food, keratinous epithelium, and comparative lack of mucosal papillae, indicate that they should be considered as “bulk and roughage eaters” (Hofman and Stewart, 1972), a category reserved in terrestrial ruminants for grazers (grass feeders). Whether sloths are considered grazers on the basis of their stomach characteristics, or browsers because they feed mainly (three-toed) or partially (two-toed) on leaves, many of their effects on neotropical forest processes would be expected to parallel the effects of terrestrial mammalian grazers and browsers of grassland and savanna.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. G. Montgomery
  • M. E. Sunquist
    • 1
  1. 1.MinneapolisUSA

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