Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pygmy Sloth

The Pygmy Sloth is both the smallest and the most endangered sloth on the planet. There were only first discovered in 2001, and are found exclusively on the Isla Escudo de Veraguas, a small island off the coast of Panama. Their exact numbers are unknown, but estimates are less than 500 individuals.

Bradypus pygmaeus
Pygmy Sloths are smaller than other Sloths because they spent almost 10,000 years evolving in isolation on a small island. This biological process, called Insular Dwarfism, can also be seen in Florida's Key Deer and in Homo floresiensis from Flores Island, Indonesia. There are of course numerous other examples as well. Lack of space and a smaller supply of resources cause this evolutionary process to happen.

Like the Sloths on the mainland, Pygmy Sloths are arboreal, and feed off of leaves. Interestingly though, the Pygmy Sloths are found feeding near exclusively on Red Mangrove trees, which lives only near the island's coast. The Sloths have not been found in island forests. Their reliance on the Red Mangrove is one of the reasons for their decline; though the island is a marine reserve, indigenous people continue to harvest the plants.

Because Pygmy Sloths are so rare very little is known about their behavior. Detailed information on reproduction and parenting is not available, and scientists are only able to deduce information based on what other, larger Sloth species do. We do know, however, that they are solitary animals that live in a home-range of about 1.6Ha (4 Acres).

IUCN Status : Critically Endangered
Location : Isla Escudo de Veraguas, Panama
Size : Weight up to 7.7lbs (3.5kg), Length up to 20in (51cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Pilosa
Family : Bradypodidae -- Genus : Bradypus -- Species : B. pygmaeus

1 comment:

  1. watch this conservation effort and video on the pygmy sloth!


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