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International > The picture of the week > Sloths of tropical America

Picture of the week (No.23): sloths of tropical America.                              Share

Each week (actually currently 1 or 2 times a month), Willgoto selects here a nice picture. The sloths, arboreal mammals of tropical America, are the theme of the twenty-third picture of this series. The sloths are so named because they sleep a long time and they only move slowly. Hidden in the foliage of tropical forests, they are not always easy to observe in the wildlife.

Sloth in Costa Rica
Sloth (Folivora) in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica (Central America): a two-toed sloth.

The country. Costa Rica is a country located in Central America between Nicaragua in the north and Panama in the south. It is crossed from northwest to southeast by mountain ranges that separate the plains of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

The first country in the world to have suppressed its army, Costa Rica is famous for its rich fauna and flora. This country, 5 times smaller than the United Kingdom, is home to 6% of the world's biodiversity. Over 25% of its territory consists of protected natural areas: 25 national parks, 8 nature reserves, 32 protected zones, 11 forest reserves, 58 wildlife refuges and about 30 wetlands, mangroves or other protected areas.

Manuel Antonio National Park is located on the Pacific coast about 4 hours drive south of San José (the capital of the country). It consists of a marine part and a smaller land part of only 16,2 km² that is made up of beaches, mangroves, forests and mountains. It is home to half of the country's bird and mammal species. It is the most visited national park of Costa Rica. It is crossed by several hiking trails.

Sloths, well known for their nonchalance, are mammals that live alone in the canopy of the tropical rainforests of America. They feed mainly on leaves, a low energy food. Sloths have a much lower metabolism than the other mammals. Their digestion and heart rate are particularly slow. Their stomach is relatively large and is composed of several chambers in which food ferments slowly. Sloths sleep 10 to 14 hours a day (depending on species and habitat) and move slowly.

Sloths are often hung upside down by their large and powerful claws to the branches of the trees, with the head down. This position is only possible because the sloth's organs are attached to its rib cage and do not compress the lungs. Moreover, the cervical vertebrae of the sloth enable it to turn its head 270 degrees and see behind.

Sloths only mate every two years. Their coat, rather rough, is home to green microscopic algae that contribute to the camouflage of the animal and to its food when it licks. On the ground where they only go down to poop, their predators are mainly big cats (jaguars) and, in the Heights, harpy eagles.

Sloths are not primates and are not related to koalas, wrongly called Australian sloths. They belong to six species grouped into two genera: three-toed sloths that have three claws on each leg and nine cervical vertebrae and two-toed sloths that have six cervical vertebrae and whose front legs have only two claws. Two-toed sloths (6 to 8 kg on average for the adult) are generally larger than three-toed sloths (4 kg on average, not including the smaller pygmy three-toed sloths).

Sloths arouse the interest of scientists among other because of their resistance to certain viruses.

You may want also to see these beautiful pictures from wildlife in the world:

Fauna of Madagascar

Fauna & flora of Seychelles

Fauna of Galápagos (Ecuador)


Costa Rica

The author of the pictures. The above picture belongs to Willgoto.

See also:
Picture of the week 1: Bee hummingbird, the smallest bird in the world. It is endemic to Cuba.
Picture of the week 2: Pagoda of the Golden Rock in Myanmar. It is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the world.
Picture of the week 3: Seychelles beach. Seychelles is a perfect destination for a dream holiday.
Picture of the week 4: Lemur of Madagascar (Coquerel's sifaka), an endangered species of primates, which, like all other species of lemurs, is endemic to Madagascar.
Picture of the week 5: World heritage in Cambodia. The temple of Banteay Srei, better known as 'Citadel of the women', in Cambodia is a jewel of Khmer art and a world heritage site.
Picture of the week 6: Bull shark and tiger shark. Both sharks are unfortunately known for fatal attacks on humans. However, experienced divers can approach them and swim with them.
Picture of the week 7: Firewalking in Mauritius. Walking barefoot over a bed of hot embers is an ancestral religious practice.

And many more pictures of the week including:
Picture of the week 19: The Beaches of Isla Mujeres(Cancun). They are much appreciated by holidaymakers, especially those who come from Europe and the United States in winter.
Picture of the week 20: Tourist attractions of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka offers a wide range of attractions that make it a tourist destination visited by a growing amount of holidaymakers.
Picture of the week 21: Tourist attractions of Thailand  The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) in Chiang Rai, famous for its whiteness as pure as unusual, is one of the many attractions of Thailand.
Picture of the week 22: The Mekong Falls, better known as Khone Falls, located in southern Laos only a few kilometers from Cambodia prevent navigation between the two countries.

See all our "Pictures of the week".



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Sloths, well known for their nonchalance, are mammals that live alone in the canopy of the tropical rainforests of America and feed mainly on leaves.