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Entries in Costa Rica (7)

Saturday
Nov032012

The amazing wildlife of Costa Rica

White-tailed deer

Gaudy Leaf Frog

Green basilisk

 

Our guide found a nest of tiny sleeping Pallas' Nectar Bats in a curled-up palm frond

 

Collared Aracari Toucan 

This mantled howler monkey infant was in the wildlife rescue centre we visited

White-throated Capuchin

Brown vine snake

Adult crab-eating racoon

Juvenile crab-eating racoon

Red-tailed squirrel

Brown-throated three-toed sloth

We also saw spider monkeys, greater grison, oncilla, numerous agouti, the very cute kinkajou, poison dart frogs and so many different species of bird, from hawks and hummingbirds to the beautiful Passerini's Tanager and Blue-Gray Tangers.

Finally, one last photo of a sloth:

 

Friday
Nov022012

World's ugliest monkey

Is it just me, or does this capuchin monkey look like Voldemort?

Thursday
Nov012012

Sloths, sloths, sumptuous sloths

As well as being the cutest of all animals, sloths are among the weirdest. The sloth family, which also includes armidillos and anteaters, split off from all other mammals around 65 million years ago, making them the outlier to all other placental mammals. This has left them with distinctly weird features, just as peg-like teeth, internal testicles, unusual joints on the spine and an inability to thermoregulate (which probably explains why sloths are only found in the tropics, since they can't heat up their body enough to survive in cooler climates).

Originally all sloths were ground-dwelling animals, as large as the largest elephants, roaming the plains of South America, but two types of sloth left the ground and entered the trees and now the tree sloths are the only sloths left. The two basic types of tree sloth are the Two-Toed Sloth (or the "frumpy sloth") and the Three-Toed Sloth (or the "super-cute sloth", as we refer to them). Now sloths are so adapted to life in the tree tops that they can't even walk on the ground - they have to drag themselves along with their front claws. 

Up in the trees, sloths just eat leaves, one of only a handful of animals that can suvive on such a low-energy high-toxicity diet. Sloths do this with a unique digestive system: up to two thirds of the body weight of a sloth is their stomach, and they are completely missing normal digestive organs such as the gall bladder, caecum and appendix. The low energy diet leaves the sloth being rather dim-witted and, well, slothful. Sloths spend the vast majority of their time hanging upside down asleep. Their arms and claws have evolved to allow hanging to be completely energy-free - sloths sometimes give birth hanging upside down, and will even stay there hanging after they die. The Three-Toed Sloth has even evolved an extra neck bone, allowing it to swivel its head around without moving the rest of its body - a feature that no other mammal has. 

You would think that the sloth would be easy pickings for any predator, but actually they are highly successful at hiding. The sloth has unique fur, running in the opposite direction to other mammals (so rain drips off when it is hanging upside down) and having special cracks in it where photosynthetic algae can live. Once these algae start growing the sloth starts to look a dirty green-brown that blends into the tree tops. Indeed, the only time that sloths are really at risk is when they go to the toilet - for some strange reason sloths refuse to defecate while up in the trees, and instead slowly come down to the ground once a week to dig a hole for their excretement. 

Wednesday
Oct312012

My little friend the woodpecker

I was trying to be quiet in taking a photo of this beautiful Black-cheeked Woodpecker (not easy with Hayden strapped to my chest), so I could get close enough without it flying away. As it turned out, that was not an issue, as the Woodpecker became inquisitive and flew down and landed on my shoulder.

Hayden was very interested and I thought the bird would fly off when he tried to grab it, but instead it flew down into his baby carrier and started to peck off all the crumbs that Hayden had dropped. My Woodpecker friend then climbed out and walked all over me, clinging to my back or shoulders for the next ten minutes, giving me the occasional sharp peck as it investigated the possibility of grubs. 

Tuesday
Oct302012

Baby sloth!

This is a baby sloth.

Monday
Oct292012

The giant invertebrates of Costa Rica

Hayden: "I want that giant purple locust"

Hayden: "Ah... Daddy, I think you might have walked through a spider-web..."

Sunday
Oct282012

The tiny sand monster of Costa Rica