The River Cruise
The Rio Frio's lush banks
Epiphytic bromeliads draw the moisture and nutrients they need from the air. Bromeliads are a huge plant family containing 3,170 species, which includes pineapples and orchids.
Pejibaye palm (Bactris gasipaes) native to Costa Rica and other Central American countries. It is sometimes called a peach palm and can live from 50-75 years. The fruit is edible and this species is domesticated in some areas.
Alouatta palliata. It got its nickname from its loud howling--actually more like hooting. The monkey howls to identify itself and to locate others of its species in the area. The sound, arising from all directions in a late-night chorus, can definitely unnerve a tourist who is not familiar with which animal is making the noise.
hood, or capuche, of a monk's habit. The Capuchin's are smaller and much less husky than the Howlers. They were also much less numerous in this area.
Birds along the river
Anhinga anhinga is the formal name of this large bird. It is also called the American snake bird, from its long sinuous neck. It feeds by diving into the water to catch fish.
Tachycineta albilinea is a non-migratory bird that lives in the coastal regions of Central America and Mexico. It is one of the passerine species which are distinguished by three toes pointing forward and one back. This arrangement enables these birds to perch on branches more effectively than non-passerine species. Passerines make up more than half of all bird species.
Egretta caerulea is a close relative of the Snowy Egret and actually resembles the other bird until it molts and gains its blue adult coloring. This coloring protected it from the feather hunters who decimated the white egrets in the 19th century. The Little Blue Heron likes the water and seeks out river banks, swamps, ponds, and the shores of marshy lakes.
Ardea alba). It has a very wide distribution in the warmer, tropical temperate regions of the world. The Great White Egret is distinguished from other white egrets by its size and also its yellow beak and black legs and feet.
iguana turns from its normal green color to the bright orange seen above. The color helps make it more easily visible to iguanas of the opposite sex. Despite their fearsome appearance, iguanas are entirely harmless to humans.
Basilicus plumifrons is sometimes called the "Jesus Christ Lizard" because of its seeming ability to walk on water. This comes from small fringes on the tips of its toes. These unfurl when it hits the water, creating a tiny air pocket under each toe. The Jesus Christ lizard can sprint 1.5 m (5 ft) per second across the surface. They can make it about 4.5 m (15 ft) before they sink, but then they have excellent swimming abilities.
Slothfulness made easy
Bradypus variegatus is active during the day, although "active" is a relative term for a sloth. They are very slow-moving animals. This is caused by their diet, which is almost entirely leaves from the trees in which they perch. Such a low-nutrition diet gives them a slow metabolism. That, in turn, requires a thick covering of fur to help conserve body heat. The sloth lives almost its entire life--eating, sleeping, socializing, and mating--in the tops of trees. Just about the only exception is when, once a week, they descend to the forest floor to urinate and defecate into a small hole they dig. The whole process takes about 30 minutes and is the only time when their slowness makes them really vulnerable to predators. It is a mystery why they don't eliminate their body wastes while safely sitting in a tree. Despite this weekly period of danger, sloths often live 20-30 years in the wild.
This completes Part 7 of my Costa Rica series. I hope you enjoyed visiting the animals along Rio Frio and, if so, you will leave any comments or questions you may have in the Comments section below. Alternatively, you can just email me directly.
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Hasta luego, Jim