Sloths and Anteaters

The sloths, anteaters and armadillos belong to a group of animals that originated in South America. Compared with other mammals, these animals have extra vertebrae and a unique structure in their hips. Those additional joints and extra support in the hips gives them additional freedom of movement, useful in climbing, reaching for food, or digging for food using their claws.

Sloths and anteaters belong to the same Order Pilosa, which means “hairy”, since their long fur is notable. There are 6 species of sloths, two of which have two toes on their very long arms and four of which have three toes. All live in South or Central America. Sloths are slow-moving mammals that climb around in the trees feeding upon foliage. They rarely come down to the ground. Three of the four species of anteaters — the northern tamandua, the southern tamandua and the silky anteater — feed both on the ground and in the trees. The giant anteater is terrestrial. The anteaters have long, pointy snouts and no teeth. They use long, sticky tongues to capture their insect prey, often digging into ant or termite nests with their powerful claws.

The armadillos belong to the Order Cingulata, which means “armored”. Rather than dense fur, the 21 armadillos have layers of horn and bone covering the back, sides, tail and head. These armor layers are divided into bands and plates joined by skin. Though the hair on armadillos is typically short and barely noticeable, the screaming hairy armadillo has long, reddish hairs along its sides.