The behaviour and activity budgets of two sympatric sloths

The behaviour and activity budgets of two sympatric sloths; Bradypus variegatus and Choloepus hoffmanni

It is usually beneficial for animals to restrict activity to a particular phase of the 24 hour day as they can develop adaptations which enhance survival under specific conditions. Sloth activity patterns are thought to be strongly related to variations in the environmental conditions due to the metabolic consequences of having a low and highly variable core body temperature. However, the cryptic nature of sloths makes long term observational research difficult so there is very little literature examining the behavioural ecology of wild sloths. Here we utilise the latest in animal tracking technology to investigate how the environmental conditions affect the activity of both three-fingered and two-fingered sloths inhabiting a lowland rainforest on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.

In short, this involved tracking, collecting and analysing movement, activity, and behavioural data from both three-fingered and two-fingered wild sloths over the course of 6 years, and matching it to the corresponding weather data on a minute by minute basis. Througout this project we have accumilated over 2500 hours of wild sloth data, with 8 different parameters being measured by data loggers at a rate of 40 times per second. That equates to 72 million different pieces of behavioural data.

While we can’t reveal the findings yet, we demonstrate a surprising lack of synchronicity within the same population and suggest that this unusual pattern provides sloths with the flexibility to exploit favourable environmental conditions while perhaps reducing the threat of predation.
This manuscript is currently in press and is not yet available.