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Resource use by the two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni) and the three-toed sloth (Bradypus variegatus) differs in a shade-grown agro-ecosystem

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 October 2014

Jorge E. Mendoza
University of Wisconsin–Madison, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, Madison WI 53706, USA
M. Zachariah Peery
University of Wisconsin–Madison, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, Madison WI 53706, USA
Gustavo A. Gutiérrez
Escuela de Biología, Universidad de Costa Rica, San José, Costa Rica
Geovanny Herrera
University of Wisconsin–Madison, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, Madison WI 53706, USA
Jonathan N. Pauli*
University of Wisconsin–Madison, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, Madison WI 53706, USA
1Corresponding author. Email:


Although resource specialization occurs along a continuum, species are often defined as either specialists or generalists. In general, specialists are more prone to extinction than generalists and, thus, are often the first species to be lost when habitats are modified. The two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni) and the three-toed sloth (Bradypus variegatus) are arboreal herbivores distributed across the Neotropics. The two-toed sloth is considered a generalist while the three-toed sloth is more specialized. Both species inhabit shade-grown agro-ecosystems but, at least at one study site, only the two-toed sloth was viable. To quantify specialization in sloth species and explore how it influences population viability, we characterized the resource use for 68 adult and 12 subadult sloths across 3 y. The two-toed sloth used 14 tree species relatively uniformly across habitats, while the three-toed sloth largely depended on only two species of tree regardless of habitat type. Both species selected for patches of intact tropical forest, strongly avoided monocultures regardless of spatial scale and generally used cocoa similarly in proportion to availability. However, the sloth species differed in their use of cattle pastures, with the two-toed sloth selecting for pastures and the three-toed sloth avoiding them. Overall, the two-toed sloth exhibited greater plasticity in tree and habitat use, which is likely contributing to its enhanced resilience within this modified agro-ecosystem.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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