Monk sloth

Bradypus pygmaeus

TAXONOMY

Bradypus pygmaeus Anderson and Handley, 2001. Known only from Isla Escudo de Veraguas, an island of the Bocas del Toro, off the Caribbean coast of Panama. This recently described species provides a fascinating example of evolution in action. Sloths from the mainland have colonized five of these islands at least four times in the past few thousand years. Each time, they have changed in their isolation, becoming smaller and adapted to their new island homes. The oldest island, Escudo de Varaguas, is 8,900 years old. Only here has the population differentiated enough to be called a new species. Populations on the other islands (1,000 to 5,200 years old) are still many generations away from this.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Dwarf sloth, pygmy three-toed sloth.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Small (20% less in all measurements) in comparison to other sloths. The speculum is pure orange. The face is tan with a distinctive dark band across the forehead, and a dark throat and an orange wash to the face. Long hair hangs forward from the forehead, giving the impression of a hood. Back with a strong spinal stripe.

DISTRIBUTION

Only found on Escudo de Veraguas island, off the Caribbean coast of western Panama.

HABITAT

Found only in red mangroves at sea level.

BEHAVIOR

Not yet studied. Lives only in coastal mangroves.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Believed to consist entirely of the leaves of red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle).

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Nothing is known. May be polygynous.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Nothing known.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Of great interest to evolutionary biologists.

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