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Keywords:

  • Bradypus torquatus;
  • three-toed sloth;
  • reproduction;
  • morphometry;
  • sexual dimorphism

Abstract

This work presents new data from 48 maned sloths Bradypus torquatus captured between November 2002 and November 2003 in three regions of the Atlantic forest where the largest remnant populations of this species are found. Data from another long-term study, carried out from 1994 to 1996 and from 1999 to the present (n=14), were also used, making a total sample of 62 sloths. Average adult body weight is 6594±236 g and average head-body length is 66.5±0.8 cm (n=35), indicating that Bradypus torquatus is the heaviest of all four Bradypus species. Individuals from lower-montane forests (600–1000 m a.s.l.) are significantly larger (head–body length; t-test; P=0.001) than individuals from the lowlands (<350 m a.s.l.), suggesting altitudinal differentiation between populations. Sexual dimorphism, here reported for the first time, was found in body length (females are significantly larger than males) and in other external characters, such as mane size and form (darker and larger in males), and size and shape of the external genitalia. Most differences between sexes are, however, only discernible in reproductively active individuals. Breeding is slightly seasonal; minimum observed interbirth interval was 1 year and litter size was always one. Infants stayed with their mothers until 8–11 months old; started feeding on solid food as early as 2 weeks old but continued suckling until c. 4 months of age. Age of sexual maturity was estimated at 2–3 years and the oldest captured maned sloth was a healthy male who was at least 12 years of age. Overall, results indicated that maned sloths are similar in these aspects to congeneric species. Information presented here significantly improves the current knowledge on this endangered sloth species and is useful for the proper planning and implementation of in situ conservation strategies such as translocations and reintroductions.