The genomic basis of convergent evolution in modern sloths

The sloth lifestyle of hanging from trees has actually evolved independently two times. The convergent anatomical and physiological changes have an unknown genetics basis. We are triying to understand this by comparing high-quality whole genome sequences from living sloths.

Project details
Duration: since 10/2017
Third-party funded: yes
Involved Department(s): Dept Evolutionary Genetics
Leibniz-IZW Project Leader(s): Camila Mazzoni (Dept Evolutionary Genetics)
Leibniz-IZW Project Team: Marcela Uliano-Silva (Dept Evolutionary Genetics)
Consortium Partner(s): Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG), Vertebrate Genomes Project (VGP)
Current Funding Organisation: Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Stipendium
Research Foci: Understanding traits and evolutionary adaptations
Although the last two remaining extant sloth lineages (Bradypus and Choloepus) are separated by about 30 million years of evolution, they have both independently evolved a very special characteristic - obligate suspensory locomotion. This is the term used to describe suspended locomotion in trees, in which the animals use their arms, legs and prehensile tail to move from branch to branch. This hanging position is also adopted to some extent when feeding.


March 2019: Interview about convergent evolution in sloths to EU Horizon Magazin

August 2019: Interview about sloth biology to BBC

October 20th 2019 (Sloth Day): interview to ARTE used by several types of news in German. Example:,Rf3qIOB

Selected Publications

coming soon