Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Brown-Throated Sloth

The brown-throated sloth (Bradypus variegatus) is one of the most unusual creatures I have ever seen. It is a 3-toed sloth that occurs from Honduras south into the Amazon rain forest. Steve, Michael and I ran into a couple of them last spring while visiting the Osa Peninsula in southern Costa Rica. We were not expecting to see one - in fact we had insects and birds on the mind instead. Fortunately Steve has sharp eyes and we got a great look at this one pictured. It looks like it's playing peek-a-boo.

My search image for insects and birds relies primarily on movement (unless I'm looking for something at close range). I expect that this might be the case for other predators as well (yes I suspect that all entomologists are predators in some sense). That's why sloths can be so hard to see. They hardly move at all. All this individual did during a period of maybe 20 minutes was raise and lower one of its arms. They must be pretty common, though, in certain parts of Central America if we could come across two in less than 12 hours. This individual was right by the main road on the peninsula. And I must say that the road is ideal for seeing wildlife. It isn't paved and is only two lanes wide with forest canopy extending over the top for much of its length. Patient photographers and birders can often be seen off to the side waiting for a good shot or siting.

The down-side of the peninsula is that its hard to find reasonably priced lodging. We ended up hoping to find a side road where we could put out a small tent, but without any luck. In the end we had to pay much more than we could really afford at an ecolodge (several hundred dollars for one night). But the scenery was impressive and the beach was just a bit of a hike away.

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