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Revealing the Sloth

June 27, 2014

Originally posted on NC Museum of Natural Sciences Education Blog:

by Robert Beaver, Museum intern for the Living Conservatory

Two-toed sloth in the Living Conservatory.

Two-toed sloth in the Living Conservatory.

The two-toed sloth is one of the most remarkable parts of the Living Conservatory exhibit; it can also be one of the most mysterious.  Visitors will often look into his enclosure and wonder where he is.  Some visitors want to know, “What in the world is a sloth?”  They gaze at him in amazement as I tell them that a sloth is just a sloth, and its closest relations are actually anteaters and armadillos, not something that would be found climbing around in trees like primates.  In fact, the two-toed sloth’s evolutionary ancestors were not arboreal, but a variety of massive ground-dwelling mammals that roamed the Americas tens of thousands of years ago.  The story of tree-dwelling sloths represents a peculiar and interesting history of mammalian evolution that occurred relatively close to home in…

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