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Disgusting appetite: Two-toed sloths feeding in human latrines

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... comm.) has been reported to our knowledge only once from a camera trap in terra firme forest at Tiputini Biodiversity Station, Ecuador (Blake et al., 2011). In Peru, the same species has been recorded consuming human feces and urine from the latrines in Quebrada Blanco Biological Station, presumably seeking mineral resources (Heymann et al., 2011). The use of mineral licks by sloths may be an uncommon behavior that provides individuals with essential nutrients that are only needed in small amounts or at specific times. ...
... The few previous records available of this behavior for sloths have already stated the rarity of such events (Blake et al., 2011;Heymann et al., 2011), which together with the rarity of our observation, can reflect the low frequency of mineral-lick use for sloths at ground level. This can be because of at least three not mutually exclusive explanations: 1) exposure to predators, 2) salt-licks not being the only mineral source, and 3) low relative importance of minerals in sloth diet. ...
... Minerals are used by other herbivores mainly for detoxification of compounds in the diet (Kreulen, 1985;Molina et al., 2014). The low basal metabolic rates in Choloepus (McNab, 2002) together with a large multichambered stomach may reduce the amount of supplemental minerals needed in their diet (Gilmore et al., 2001;Heymann et al., 2011). It is noteworthy that also, as in previous records, the individual observed was a female, which could be associated with special mineral needs of pregnant or lactating females (Blake et al., 2011;Heymann et al., 2011). ...
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To date, only one record of mineral licking exists for sloths (i.e., Choloepus didactylus) from Ecuador. Here we present the first record of mineral licking for C. hoffmanni from a tropical rainforest in Costa Rica. This behavior has been mainly associated with detoxification in herbivores, but no evidence exists for such needs in sloths. Hasta la fecha, sólo existe un registro del consumo de minerales en perezosos (i.e., Choloepus didactylus) en Ecuador. Aquí presentamos el primer registro del consumo mineral para C. hoffmanni en una selva tropical en Costa Rica. Este comportamiento se ha asociado principalmente con procesos de desintoxicación en herbívoros, pero no existe evidencia de tales necesidades en perezosos.
... Moreover, unlike the three-toed sloth, which in the zoo was fed with a monospecific diet (sprouts of the rubber plant, Ficus elastica), the food fed to the two-toed sloth included spinach and other greens, quinoa, sweet potatoes, carrots and pellets of Purina Dog Choww (table 1; electronic supplementary material). In the wild, the diet of Choloepus also is more diverse than that of Bradypus, even including components of animal origin [38][39][40]. Consistent with a more diverse diet, Choloepus also has a more variable and diverse gut microbiota than Bradypus [34]. ...
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Carbon isotopic signatures recorded in vertebrate tissues derive from ingested food and thus reflect ecologies and ecosystems. For almost two decades, most carbon isotope-based ecological interpretations of extant and extinct herbivorous mammals have used a single diet–bioapatite enrichment value (14‰). Assuming this single value applies to all herbivorous mammals, from tiny monkeys to giant elephants, it overlooks potential effects of distinct physiological and metabolic processes on carbon fractionation. By analysing a never before assessed herbivorous group spanning a broad range of body masses—sloths—we discovered considerable variation in diet–bioapatite δ¹³C enrichment among mammals. Statistical tests (ordinary least squares, quantile, robust regressions, Akaike information criterion model tests) document independence from phylogeny, and a previously unrecognized strong and significant correlation of δ¹³C enrichment with body mass for all mammalian herbivores. A single-factor body mass model outperforms all other single-factor or more complex combinatorial models evaluated, including for physiological variables (metabolic rate and body temperature proxies), and indicates that body mass alone predicts δ¹³C enrichment. These analyses, spanning more than 5 orders of magnitude of body sizes, yield a size-dependent prediction of isotopic enrichment across Mammalia and for distinct digestive physiologies, permitting reconstruction of foregut versus hindgut fermentation for fossils and refined mean annual palaeoprecipitation estimates based on δ¹³C of mammalian bioapatite.
... Emmons & Stark (1979) demonstrated that the element sought at those licks is sodium. Tree-dwelling two-toed sloths (Choloepus didactylus) have been observed feeding from human latrines, the most plausible explanation being that they were seeking sodium otherwise missing from their diets (Heymann et al., 2011). ...
... Habitat selection for risk and forage is also contingent upon what is available (Aebischer et al. 1993, Mysterud and Ims 1998, Heymann et al. 2010. The change in a consumer"s intake rate with the availability of resources is described as their functional response (Holling 1959). ...
... 30,[37][38][39][40] However, accounts in the literature of sloth diets have been mixed and often fail to provide adequate information about dietary preferences and habits. The earliest accounts made little to no distinction between two-and three-fingered sloths, and whereas more modern studies have established good field records for Bradypus, the remainder have only produced anecdotal accounts for Choloepus that are primarily based upon specimens maintained in captivity or zoological garden settings with an unnatural diet, [41][42][43][44][45] along with the oddities of individuals opportunistically feeding in a latrine 46 and the utilization by both Bradypus and Choloepus of cacao agroforests. 47 These assessments conclude that Bradypus is a specialized folivore and that Choloepus is a more generalized frugivore-folivore, with a tendency towards omnivory. ...
... Its diet is characterized here as being more of a frugivore-folivore, by past accounts showing a preference for softer foods or vegetal matter (Britton, 1941;Gofart, 1971;Chiarello, 2008;Gilmore et al., 2008;Superina et al., 2008). Choloepus has even been documented eating human fecal matter (Heymann et al., 2011). The lower bite force ratios exhibited by Choloepus are more useful for an animal chewing softer materials and whose masticatory pattern is simplified to just orthal closure followed by mesiolingual shearing. ...
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Haitian species of the extinct ground sloth genus Neocnus (Mammalia: Pilosa: Megalonychidae) have previously been hypothesized to have a much reduced jugal bone and a correspondingly reduced masseter musculature but a paucity of specimens has prevented further investigation of this hypothesis. Recent discovery of jugal bones belonging to Haitian specimens of Neocnus within the University of Florida Museum collections enables the element to be more accurately described. The discovery also makes it possible to explore mastication in these sloths. Osteological characters related to feeding were examined, along with comparative estimations of bite force with the extant tree sloths, Bradypus and Choloepus, and their known dietary habits as a means to infer aspects of the paleodiet of Neocnus. There is a significant difference in moment arm calculations for m. masseter between predicted and actual jugals, but the overall significance for bite force is lost and hampered by small sample size. Neocnus demonstrates a variety of characters that are similar to those of Bradypus and not to Choloepus, which is a close phylogenetic relative. The masticatory musculature of Neocnus enabled a chewing cycle emphasizing a grinding combination of mesiodistal and linguobuccal movements of the molariform dentition. The orientations of m. masseter and m. temporalis are estimated to produce relatively high bite force ratios that imply a masticatory system with stronger versus faster components. Because of the similarity of bite forces and jaw mechanics to those of Bradypus, in addition to a number of osteological adaptations indicative of herbivorous grazers (elevated mandibular condyle, large and complex masseter, and robust angular process), the Haitian forms of Neocnus are considered to have been selective feeders with a folivorous diet.
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Mineral licks are essential to many species of mammals and birds in the Amazon rainforest, including the Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth (Choloepus didactylus). While sloths have been recorded at mineral licks, visitation of the two-toed sloth at mineral licks has not been described in detail. We used camera traps to observe sloth visitation at 53 mineral lick sites and generalized linear mixed-effects model to evaluate patterns in visitation. We recorded a visitation rate of 29.39 visits per 100 camera nights, with a peak activity time of 22.00 h. Our model results suggest that sloth visitation at mineral licks may be related to differential habitat selection based in part on elevation, slope, and distance from rivers and streams. This study describes the largest dataset on sloth visitation at mineral licks to date, provides key natural history information on this cryptic mammal, and contributes to our understanding of the ecological importance of mineral licks.
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The digestive physiology of six three-toed sloths (Bradypus tridactylus) fed exclusively on Cecropia palmata foliage was studied. The mass of digesta in the gut was between 17 and 37% of body mass. This was between 133 and 282% of that expected in an animal of this size, based on published allometric equations. The concentration of total short chain fatty acids in the stomach was similar to that in the fermentative regions of other foregut fermenting herbivores but the rate of fermentation measured in vitro was very slow (6–12 mmol.l-1.h-1) and substantially lower than that observed using similar techniques in other small foregut fermenters. The overall (dose to excretion) mean retention time of particulate and solute digesta markers was about 150 h. Most of this (73%) occurred in the stomach but a substantial proportion (17%) could be attributed to the storage of faeces in the rectum. The slow rate of passage of digesta through the gut together with the slow rate of fermentation in the stomach is not typical of small foregut fermenting herbivores. However, such a pattern is feasible in Bradypus tridactylus because of the large volume of digesta retained in the gut and the very low metabolic rate of these mammals.
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The spatial ecology of sloths was studied in an agricultural landscape in Limón Province, Costa Rica. Two sloth species, the three-toed sloth (Bradypus variegatus) and the two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni), actively used and traveled through a cacao agroforest and its contiguous living fence rows and riparian forests. This agroecosystem was embedded in an agricultural landscape dominated by banana and pineapple plantations and pastures with dispersed trees. The two-toed sloth (C. hoffmanni) was found in 101 tree species and used 34 for food; the three-toed sloth (B. variegatus) was found in 71 tree species and used 15 for food. Choice of preferred species differed between the two sloth species. Trees commonly used by sloths for food and/or refuge in the cacao agroforest included Erythrina poeppigiana, Cecropia obtusifolia, Leucaena leucocephala; in the living fence rows, Cordia alliodora, Erythrina poeppigiana, Ocotea sinuata and Trophis racemosa; in the riparian forests, Coussapoa villosa, Cecropia obtusifolia, Hura crepitans, Pterocarpus officinalis and Spondias mombin; and in the pastures with dispersed trees, Cordia alliodora, Coussapoa villosa, Erythrina poeppigiana, Ocotea sinuata and Hura crepitans. This study demonstrates the importance of the cacao agroforest as well as arboreal elements in other land uses in providing resources for sloth conservation in a larger agricultural landscape. KeywordsCacao- Bradypus variegatus - Choloepus hoffmanni -Dispersed trees-Habitat use-Home range-Living fence rows-Riparian forest- Theobroma cacao
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The diet of maned sloths was studied throughout 14 months in an Atlantic forest reserve of south-eastern Brazil. Three adult sloths were observed for a total of 680 h and located monthly by radio-telemetry. Data were collected on diet, recording the actual time the sloths spent eating plant species. Overall, the diet was composed of 99% leaves, with young leaves (68%) preferred to mature ones (7%) throughout the year. A higher proportion of tree leaves (83%) than liana leaves (16%) were included in the diet. When analysed together, the diet of the three animals included a total of 21 plant species (16 tree and 5 liana), but each individual made up its diet with an even smaller number of species (7–12) and with a particular subset of the local flora. This is a very small portion of the total number of tree and liana species available to the sloths; furthermore, the top species consumed were present at very low population densities in the forest. Thus, B. torquatus, like other congeneric species studied elsewhere in the Neotropics, is a strictly arboreal folivore with a highly selective diet, probably resulting from evolving physiological adaptations to cope with a smaller range of plant secondary compounds. This is possible for the species of this genus through a combination of low basal rates of metabolism, which enable the sloths to survive on an energy-poor diet, and a very long passage time of digesta, which, in turn, aids the digestion of a fibre-rich diet while possibly contributing to the degradation of secondary compounds.
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In the lower half of the thoracic region in Choloepus hoffmanni, a didactyl sloth, which possesses 23 dorsal vertebrae, the spinal roots assume a rostralward direction. This situation raises difficult problems in early embryological development as it already prevails — although slightly altered — in the 100 gm foetus. The myelinated nerve fiber diameters in the ventral roots are smaller than in the cat. This conforms to the general rule that “red” and slow muscle fibers are supplied by thinner motor fibers than the “white” fast muscles, because in the sloth the whole of the musculature is of the former type. The γ efferent system is well developed. The sympathetic preganglionic fibers are thought to be mostly unmyelinated. From the fiber spectrum in the dorsal roots it appears that the muscle spindle afferents are also of smaller diameter than in the cat. The cuscle spindles, the sympathetic chain and the aortic origin of the intercostal arteries are described.
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Foods containing hydrolysable or condensed tannins depleted mouse body sodium concentrations. Supplementation of tannin diets with minerals eliminated sodium depletion and reduced toxic effects caused by tannin ingestion. Similar results were obtained by providing both tannin and saponin containing foods. A triterpene saponin did not cause sodium depletion. Sodium is limiting to some herbivore populations and herbivores frequently exhibit appetites for sodium. Sodium appetites and sodium population limitation are associated with consumption of tannins or other plant allelochemicals likely to cause sodium depletion. Enhanced sodium (or other mineral) requirements provides a mechanism whereby plants may maintain herbivore carrying capacities below levels likely to result in severe damage to vegetation.
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Two-toed sloths (Choloepus hoffmanni) and three-toed sloths (Bradypus infuscatus) live in sympatry on Barro Colorado Island, Panama Canal Zone. Activity patterns and rates of movement of six two-toed and 15 three-toed sloths were studied by radio-telemetry in 1970 and 1971. Two-toed sloths were nocturnal and showed a cyclic pattern of activity related to the light-dark cycle. Three-toed sloths were active both during the day and at night, but showed decreased activity before and after sunrise. Individual three-toed sloths did not exhibit cyclic patterns of activity. For both species, the bulk of movement was during bouts of continuous activity lasting 2 or more hours. Three-toed sloths were active for more of each diel than were two-toed sloths. Three-toed sloths were in the same tree on successive dates 40 per cent of the time, and rarely moved more than 38 meters per diel. Two-toed sloths tended not to be in the same tree on successive days, and traveled more than 38 meters per diel more than half the time. Results of our study are interpreted in terms of potential competition between the two species, relationship of activity patterns and movements to feeding strategies, and mechanisms of control of the activity patterns.
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The same individual as in Fig. 2 moving away from the latrine (Photo: M. Stojan-Dolar)
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Fig. 3. The same individual as in Fig. 2 moving away from the latrine (Photo: M. Stojan-Dolar).
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