This week started with a lot of excitement. Today a baby sloth found its way to the ground near one of our observation nests. Adorable.
Take a look, he is in pure slothy bliss!
Some sloth biology
There are 6 types of sloths globally and Panama has 3 of them. The three types found here are: the two-toed, three-toed, and pygmy sloth. This little buddy is a three-toed sloth, Bradypus variegatus.
Sloths will lower themselves to the ground in order to defecate. This paper referred to their ground-based defecation behavior as "one of the most paradoxical and humorous mysteries in canopy biology." Why is that? Well... for a pretty sedentary creature with hardly any speed or mechanism for self defense, it seems really energetically expensive and risky to journey all the way to the ground for a single event. Scientists are still trying to figure this out but the best hypothesis so far is that it's because of moths. That's right... MOTHS!!!!! (Always bringing it back to the insects!)
Ok, buckle up! As if sloths weren't already awesome, prior to the last glaciation there used to be GIANT sloths that were ground dwelling. Estimated to be 400 lbs on average, that is 20 times larger than today's sloths. Here are some cool papers about their DNA, diet, and life histories.
Ahhh... wait, it gets even COOLER! When Charles Darwin was taking his famous voyage on the M.S. Beagle he found what he hypothesized to be rhinocerous jaw bones in the Pula Alta mountains of Brazil. Later scientists would discover this was actually the jaw of a Mylodon! Hence it's scientific name (darwinii) this is thought to be Darwin's first discovery.