The eye popping Hoffmann’s Two Toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni)

How do you know if a sloth is a Hoffmann’s?

Can you tell the difference between the Hoffmann’s Two Toed Sloth and the Linnaeus Two Toed Sloth?

Neither can I.

Neither can a lot of people.

Turns out it’s quite a difficult thing to do. They are very similar. The differences are subtle.

Basically, all vertebrates (including us humans) have things called foramen in our skulls. Foramen are openings that let nerves, muscles, arteries and veins connect one part of the body to another. Hoffmann’s Two Toed sloths have three foramina in their skulls, but Linnaeus’s only have two. Told you the differences were subtle, huh?

Skull of Hoffman's Two Toed Sloth
Hoffmann’s Two Toed Sloth Skull – spot the foramen?

However, if you do find one day that you need to tell the difference between a Linne’s sloth and a Hoffmann’s, have a look at their arms and shoulders. Linne’s tend to have dark markings, Hoffmann’s don’t.

Now compare the Hoffmann’s to the Three Toed Sloths, and the differences get a lot easier to pick.

Hoffmann’s are bigger. They grow to be somewhere between 54 to 72cm long (head – body) and weigh anywhere from 2.1kg to 9k.

Their claws are 5 – 6.5cm long. Their tails are only 1.5-3cm long, too short to notice beneath their fur.

And, like their two toed Linnaeus friends, they have light brown fur, with a greenish tinge in the wet season due to the algae making home in their coat. Their hair grows to be about 15cm long, and they actually have a nice soft inner coat, underneath their coarse outer coat, which helps to insulate them.

Where can I find the Hoffmann’s Two Toed Sloth?

Hoffmann’s live in tropical rainforests ranging from sea level up to about 10,800 ft, or 3.3km, above sea level. They are actually separated into two different areas of Central and South America, divided by the Andes. One group can be found ranging from western Ecuador up to eastern Honduras. The other group inhabits the areas of western Brazil, eastern Peru and northern Bolivia.

Sometimes boys fight over who gets the girl

Males rub their bums on trees to leave a smell, alerting the ladies to their presence. Understandably excited by this, the females let it be known that they are ready to make babies by letting out a high pitched scream. This scream brings the boys to the yard, but sometimes more than one arrives at the same time. When this happens, it’s all on. The males hang upside down by their legs, and take swipes at each other until one gives up.

This all tends to happen in the rainy season and babies are then born at the beginning of the dry season. Females are pregnant for about a year and generally only have one baby at a time.

Baby Hoffmann’s are only about 25cm long and are born with their claws, which help them to cling onto their mom.

Momma Hoff carries her baby around for 6 to 9 months, and then packs him or her off to make their own way in the world.

Pappa Hoff is not interested in parenting life and doesn’t hang around to get to know his kids.

Hoffmann's Two Toed Sloth hanging from tree
Hoffmann’s Two Toed Sloth by Geoff Gallice

The Sloth’s fitbit is constantly disappointed

Hoffmann’s tend to be nocturnal, and the most movement they get each day is moving from mid-canopy to upper-canopy. Which means they only travel about 35m a day on average.

There is one day a week that they get all sporty, however. That day is toilet day. Hoffmann’s need to travel to the ground to do their weekly business, and they tend to do it in the same places each time. When they climb down their trees, they do so head first.

Being on the ground puts them at risk of being attacked by predators. If they find that they need to defend themselves, they rely on their sharp claws and teeth. But also, they give a mean dirty look. They make themselves pop-eyed when stressed out or feeling aggressive, just to look a bit scarier. Also, sometimes they hiss!

Generally, though, thanks to their very limited movement and camouflage, Hoffmann’s are pretty well pretected from predators like harpy eagles and jaguars. Also, they are categorised as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.

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Animal Diversity