Behavior

Xenarthrans are solitary, although mothers keep their young with them, in some cases for up to as long as a year. Sloth and anteater mothers carry their single babies with them until long after weaning, including when the young have achieved two-thirds the size of their mothers. Armadillos do not carry their babies but do stay with them, foraging together in a family group. Some armadillos may form loose social groups of adults, but more commonly are solitary.

Although xenarthrans do not typically associate with others of their own species, they do maintain territories, which include feeding locations and favorite resting places. Sloths eat the leaves of about 60 species of trees and vines, although they have preferences for a more limited number of food trees that they learned by accepting partially digested leaves from the mouths of their mothers as early as a few weeks after birth. Anteater young learn the locations of the nests their mothers frequent, although after weaning, they may move to a different or partially different territory. Armadillo young disperse into areas adjacent to those occupied by their mothers.

Tree sloths are well known for the slowness of their movements, and their propensity to sleep for many hours a day. Common names include "peresozo," which translates to "lazy

man," and the name "sloth" symbolizes one of the seven deadly vices. However, the slowness with which the animals move is determined by their low metabolic rate, necessitated by a leaf diet that provides poor quality nutrition. Another correlate of their low metabolic rate is that sloths are poor at regulating their body temperature, and become even more inactive in cool weather. The diet of one extinct sloth of the genus Nothrotheriops has been determined from the analysis of dung balls preserved in a cave in Arizona. These animals ate a variety of plant materials that include some species present in the area today. With a similar quality of nutrition to that of living sloths, it is reasonable to assume that these extinct sloths were also slow moving. Anteaters also have a low metabolic rate although they do not sleep as much or move as slowly as do sloths, and armadillos are as active as most other mammals.

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