Three maned sloths were observed for a total of 680 h throughout 14 months in an Atlantic forest reserve of south-eastern Brazil. The study animals were located in the forest, monthly by radio-telemetry, and data on daily activity budgets were collected recording the actual time they spent in major activities. Individual home ranges were very small (0.5–6 ha, depending on the method used) and the sloths travelled an average of only 24 m during the 24 h period. A comparison between day- and night-range lengths suggests that maned sloths ranged more during daytime (17 m) than at night (5 m), indicating a predominantly diurnal period of activity. They rested, on average, for 74% of daytime, but a substantial variation was found between individuals (range 60–80%). Although a lack of synchrony was observed in activity pattern between study animals monitored simultaneously, all three sloths tended to start feeding and moving at the same time of the day (07:00–08:00), and the time that elapsed between the start of these activities on consecutive days was about 24 h, indicating a circadian rhythm of activity for the species. This finding contradicts previous studies on congeneric sloths, in which suggestions that Bradypus does not show cyclic patterns of activity were based on qualitative rather than quantitative data. Given the species' highly folivorous diet and the characteristic low basal rate of metabolism in this genus, the rather high levels of activity and the predominantly diurnal period of activity observed for maned sloths are probably related to the lower ambient temperatures found in the Atlantic forest when compared to other more equatorial localities of the Neotropics. Further studies with additional sloths are necessary, however, to ascertain the validity of this conclusion.
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