Lesser CapybaraHydrochoerus isthmius The semiaquatic Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) of South America is iconic as the world's largest species of rodent. Perhaps less familiar is the other species of capybara, the Lesser Capybara, which occurs here in Panama. In most physical and ecological details the two species are similar, except that the Lesser Capybara is noticeably smaller, weighing in at just around 28kg compared to its 50kg cousin. While the Capybara inhabits a vast swath of South America east of the Andes, from Venezuela south to Argentina, the Lesser Capybara is restricted to parts of Colombia and Venezuela west of the Andes as well as the eastern half of Panama, where it constitutes the northernmost capybara population. The Lesser Capybara was first reported as inhabiting Pacific river valleys in Panama, from Tuira in Darién as far west as Cabra near Panama City, in the 1940s. Since then it has been observed to have colonized suitable wetland and waterside habitat along the Chagres River and the Panama Canal, including small islands in Gatun Lake such as Barro Colorado, as well as more recently along the Caribbean coast as far west as Índio. The Lesser Capybara is generally rare and secretive in Panama, often becoming active only at night especially in areas where it faces hunting pressure. However, ponds around Gamboa near the Canopy Tower are some of the best places to observe this species, and in the rainy season they can become quite plentiful and conspicuous. Like their larger South American counterparts, Lesser Capybaras are always found near bodies of water, which they use to regulate their body temperature, to evade predators, to mate, and to forage for aquatic vegetation. They possess a number of adaptations to their semiaquatic lifestyle, including webbed feet. They are entirely herbivorous and will forage on grass
Lesser CapybaraHydrochoerus isthmius The semiaquatic Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) of South America is iconic as the world’s largest species of rodent. Perhaps less familiar is the other species of capybara, the Lesser Capybara, which
Orange Nectar Bat Lonchophylla robusta Photo by David Tipling The Orange Nectar Bat is a common species of mid-elevation rainforests and a regular nighttime visitor to the Canopy Lodge hummingbird feeders! This species is a member of the extremely diverse leaf-nosed bat family (Phyllostomidae); it prominently features the “noseleaf” typical of its family and can be recognized by its orange-rufous to buffy coloration. It ranges from Nicaragua south into Venezuela and Peru. The Orange Nectar Bat actually feeds predominantly on insects, as well as nectar from flowers (and feeders), pollen, and fruit. Its method of nectar-feeding has attracted particular scientific attention. A recent study discovered that this species does not actively lap up the nectar but rather employs tiny muscles to pump the nectar up two grooves along its tongue; this adaptation, which differs significantly from the feeding methods of other nectarivorous bat species, had not previously been observed in mammals. Orange Nectar Bats spend the daytime roosting in small groups in caves and under boulders. As mentioned, Orange Nectar Bats are regular nocturnal visitors to the hummingbird feeders at the Canopy Lodge and so can often be seen as well on the Panama Fruit Feeder Cam. Given their interest in these feeders and their rapid hovering flight patterns, they are often initially mistaken for some sort of nocturnal hummingbird by Cam viewers! Take a look below at the bats in action. References Brown, E. (2015). “Bat drinks using ‘tongue-pump’ trick.” Nature. https://www.nature.com/news/bat-drinks-using-tongue-pump-trick-1.18434. Dávalos, L., H. Mantilla, C. Medina, J. Pineda, and B. Rodriguez. (2015). Lonchophylla robusta. In The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-4.RLTS.T12268A22038399.en. Reid, F. (2009). A Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America & Southeast Mexico. Oxford University Press, New York, NY, USA.
Orange Nectar Bat Lonchophylla robusta Photo by David Tipling The Orange Nectar Bat is a common species of mid-elevation rainforests and a regular nighttime visitor to the Canopy Lodge hummingbird feeders! This
Rothschild's PorcupineCoendou rothschildi Photo by Danilo Rodriguez, Jr. The Rothschild’s Porcupine is a mysterious animal in many ways. An uncommon and nocturnal species, it has barely been studied in the field and its behavior and ecology remain poorly known. Its taxonomic status is also in dispute. Most interestingly for our purposes, the Rothschild’s Porcupine has never been recorded with certainty outside of Panama and so is officially regarded by many sources as a Panamanian endemic. With some luck, these porcupines can be found on nighttime excursions, or even at daytime roosts, at or around all three Canopy Family properties, although they are most often seen near the Canopy Tower. The Rothschild’s Porcupine is almost entirely covered with black and yellowish-white spines, excepting its underbelly and its bulbous pink nose. Its tail is prehensile, as its lifestyle is mostly arboreal. It is active at night. Its diet includes fruits and leaves, and Canopy Family guides have observed that it is especially fond of Membrillo fruits (Gustavia superba). Its natural predators include the ocelot. Published sources report that it spends the daytime sleeping in vine tangles near the tops of trees. However, at least one individual has been observed many times by Canopy Family guides and guests sleeping in a tree cavity along Semaphore Hill Road near the Canopy Tower. Obviously, more remains to be learned about this enigmatic creature! The Rothschild’s Porcupine belongs to the family of New World porcupines (Erethizontidae), which are more closely related to agoutis and pacas than to Old World porcupines. Although some taxonomic authorities treat the Rothschild’s Porcupine as a full species, others consider it a subspecies of the Bicolored-spined Porcupine (Coendou bicolor) of South America, or combine it with the Andean Porcupine (Coendou quichua) of western Colombia and Ecuador, which is itself sometimes considered a
Rothschild’s PorcupineCoendou rothschildi Photo by Danilo Rodriguez, Jr. The Rothschild’s Porcupine is a mysterious animal in many ways. An uncommon and nocturnal species, it has barely been studied in the field and
Common Tent-making Bat Uroderma bilobatum The Common Tent-making Bat is a common forest species of the lowlands of Central and South America. It is a member of the family Phyllostomidae, the New World leaf-nosed bats, a large family that includes vampire bats, fruit-eating bats, nectar bats and spear-nosed bats, although a majority of the species are insectivorous. They are a medium-sized bat, 59-69 mm in length with a weight of 13-20 grams. They have a gray-brown coat with a pale white stripe down their back, and a U-shaped tail membrane. Their face has a fleshy noseleaf and 4 distinct white stripes. The “noseleaf” is believed to aid in echolocation, to help direct the sounds they emit. Tent-making bats are mainly frugivorous, but will occasionally supplement their diet with insects, pollen and nectar. They are best known for their unique behavior of making “tents” out of large leaves. They bite through the midrib or vein of a large leaf so that it folds over into an inverted-V-shaped shelter. Banana and palm leaves are commonly used. The bats roost under the leaves, which provide protection from rain, sun and wind. A single leaf may house several bats, and they roost in groups from 2-59 individuals. A single “tent” may be used for up to 60 days. They are found from Mexico south to Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, in lowland forest and can be found roosting in palms near the Canopy Tower and Canopy Camp Darien. Did you know? Common Tent-making Bats emit calls at very low frequencies, often not detectable by standard bat detectors. For this reason, they are sometimes called “whispering bats.”
Common Tent-making Bat Uroderma bilobatum The Common Tent-making Bat is a common forest species of the lowlands of Central and South America. It is a member of the family Phyllostomidae, the New World
Silky Anteater Cyclopes didactylus Photo by Domiciano Alveo Also known as the Pygmy Anteater, the Silky Anteater is the smallest anteater on Earth. It is truly tiny: only 20 cm in body length with a long, furred, prehensile tail up to 24 cm in length, and weighs in at under a pound. It is named for its silvery gray-gold fur. It has a dark stripe running down its back from shoulders to rump. Its underside is a creamy yellow color. Its fur is dense and slightly wavy. Unlike other anteaters, it has a short snout and no visible ears – they are tiny and concealed underneath its thick fur. Each of its forefeet has 2 large claws, and its hind feet have 4 small claws. Nocturnal and arboreal, this very unique mammal is rarely seen, but is likely more common than it leads on to be, due to its elusive nature. During the day, it curls itself up into a small ball of golden fur and tucks away into dense vine tangles to rest. It is active after dark until an hour or two before sunrise. It travels slowly through the forest mid-story along small branches and lianas. It has specially designed hind feet with a tight fold in the skin for grasping small branches and vines. Silky Anteaters forage for ants, their primary food source, as well as other insects along small branches and hollow stems. They use the powerful claws on their forefeet to tear open the branches and lick up the ants with their long, sticky tongues. They are known to eat up to 5000 ants in a day! Females and males occupy different home ranges. Male home ranges are larger than those of females and will overlap with the home ranges of several females. Females give
Silky Anteater Cyclopes didactylus Photo by Domiciano Alveo Also known as the Pygmy Anteater, the Silky Anteater is the smallest anteater on Earth. It is truly tiny: only 20 cm in body length
Variegated Squirrel Sciurus variegatoides Photo by Uwe Speck A large and extremely variable species, the Variegated Squirrel is one of Central America’s well-known critters. This squirrel is well named, and comes in many color forms throughout its range. It is a typical tree squirrel—slender with a long, rather bushy tail edged in white or cream. It has conspicuous ear spots and coarsely grizzled hair on its back. There are at least eight distinct color patterns throughout its range and several intermediate forms, and 14 recognized subspecies. The dorsal color ranges from blackish to reddish-brown and yellowish-gray to white; the underside color ranges from white to cinnamon-buff. In Panama, the Variegated Squirrel is either entirely dark-brown or black (in western Panama) or has a dark-brown back with buffy accents and creamy white underside with white ear spots (in central Panama). There is little seasonal change in their coat. There is no size difference between males and females, but rather variable size between individuals in the same general area. Variegated Squirrels inhabit dry deciduous and evergreen forests and secondary growth and are common in plantations and open areas. They are more frequently encountered in open woodland rather than inside mature forest (where the Red-tailed Squirrel is more likely to be found). They are diurnal and arboreal, and generally solitary. Variegated Squirrels feed on soft fruits such as mangos, flowers, seeds and nuts. Unlike many other species of squirrels, the Variegated Squirrel does not hoard its food, and therefore does not play a large role in seed dispersal. They are not overly vocal, but give low 'chunk' calls and harsh chatters on occasion. Variegated Squirrels are predated on by weasels, foxes, wild cats, hawks, owls and snakes. In Panama, the Variegated Squirrel breeds between April and May. Babies are born in a
Variegated Squirrel Sciurus variegatoides Photo by Uwe Speck A large and extremely variable species, the Variegated Squirrel is one of Central America’s well-known critters. This squirrel is well named, and comes in
Panamanian Night Monkey Aotus zonalis Photo by Carlos Bethancourt The night monkeys, also known as owl monkeys or douroucoulis, are assigned to the genus Aotus. They are the only truly nocturnal monkeys. Though Aotus means "without ears," these monkeys possess tiny hard-to-see external ears. They are found in forests of Central and South America, from Panama south to Paraguay and northern Argentina. Debate still exists on the number of species. In fact, the Panamanian Night Monkey itself is often considered a subspecies of a more widespread species Aotus lemurinus. The Panamanian Night Monkey ranges from Panama to northwest Colombia. They are small, with the males weighing around 31 ounces and females slightly more. The fur on the back is gray-brown to reddish-brown with yellowish belly fur. The back of the hands and feet have black or dark brown fur. Unlike many nocturnal animals, their eyes do not have the light-reflecting surface (tapetum lucidum), so they don’t have the “eyeshine” typical of many night-active creatures. The Panamanian Night Monkey lives in small territorial groups from two and six, consisting of a bonded adult pair and young of varying ages. One infant (occasionally twins) is born each year, and the male carries and tends to the infant after the first few weeks. Night monkeys walk on all four legs, but they are capable of leaping or running when necessary. Their diet consists of a variety of foods. In a study on Barro Colorado Island, diet was found to consist of 65% fruits, 30% leaves and 5% insects. You can often find Panamanian Night Monkeys on day-roosts along the trails of the Canopy Family lodges.
Panamanian Night Monkey Aotus zonalis Photo by Carlos Bethancourt The night monkeys, also known as owl monkeys or douroucoulis, are assigned to the genus Aotus. They are the only truly nocturnal monkeys. Though
Central American Woolly Opossum Caluromys derbianus Photo by Uwe Speck The Central American Woolly Opossum is a medium-sized marsupial of the rainforests of Central America and northwestern South America. In comparison to other opossums, it is rather cute, with a thick coat of fur, gray in color with extensive reddish or brownish patches and creamy white underparts. It has large, pinkish ears, large brown eyes that give off a bright red eyeshine, and a stripe on its gray face that runs from its forehead down toward its nose. The Central American Woolly Opossum has a very long prehensile tail (longer than its body length), distinctly furred at the base for half its length, then naked to the tip. The midsection of the tail is mottled dark brown with white, and the tip is completely white. The white tip of the tail and pinkish ears distinguish this species from other opossums. Its body length is 22 to 30 cm, and its tail is 38 to 45 cm, giving an overall length of 60 to 70 cm, and it weighs 245-370 grams. Also known as Derby’s Woolly Opossum, it is the largest of its genus (three species of woolly opossums), and has six recognized subspecies. The members of this genus also have the largest brain size of all the opossums. The Central American Woolly Opossum is primarily found in Central America, ranging from Mexico to western Colombia and Ecuador. It is found in the lowlands up to the lower highlands, from sea level to 2500 m elevation. Uncommon to locally common, the Central American Woolly Opossum lives in primary and secondary growth forests, and frequents forest edges and dense vine tangles. Central American Woolly Opossums are strictly nocturnal, active well after dark and during the darkest parts of the night. They are
Central American Woolly Opossum Caluromys derbianus Photo by Uwe Speck The Central American Woolly Opossum is a medium-sized marsupial of the rainforests of Central America and northwestern South America. In comparison to other
Geoffroy's Tamarin Sanguinus geoffroyi Photo by Doug Weschler Geoffroy's Tamarin, also known as the Panamanian Tamarin, Rufous-naped Tamarin, and locally in Panama as "mono titi," is a Callitrichid monkey similar to marmosets of South America, and the only tamarin species native to Central America. This small, squirrel-sized monkey has a mottled black and creamy-yellow back, a mostly white front and legs, and a long, black, non-prehensile tail with red at the base. Geoffroy's Tamarins inhabit humid tropical rainforests of eastern and central Panama, living predominantly in the sub-canopy and shrub levels. They feed on flowers, fruit and insects. One of their favorite foods is the flowers/fruit of the Cecropia tree. The Canopy Tower is surrounded by these trees, and about three times daily, a family of 9 tamarins comes around to feed, and you can see them right from the dining room—a couple meters or less away! They often announce their arrival by giving birdlike twitters or whistles, so always have your binoculars and cameras ready for this special moment! Young tamarins are carried on the back of an adult member of the group; it can be either parent or another member of the family. Female Geoffroy's Tamarins usually give birth to twins.
Geoffroy’s Tamarin Sanguinus geoffroyi Photo by Doug Weschler Geoffroy’s Tamarin, also known as the Panamanian Tamarin, Rufous-naped Tamarin, and locally in Panama as “mono titi,” is a Callitrichid monkey similar to marmosets of
Neotropical River Otter Lontra longicaudis Photo by David Tipling Similar in appearance to its close cousins, the Northern and Southern River Otters, the Neotropical River Otter is 90-150 cm in length—its long, tapered tail makes up one-third of its full length. The Neotropical River Otter has short, shiny, dark grayish-brown fur, lighter around its muzzle and throat. Its muzzle is short and broad, with powerful jaws for feeding on mollusks and crustaceans. It has small ears, short legs and fully webbed toes. It weighs 11-33 lbs, with males up to 25% larger than females. Neotropical River Otters are members of the family Mustelidae, which includes weasels, badgers, grison, tayra and wolverine. Neotropical River Otters are semiaquatic and typically solitary, and can be found in a wide variety of riverine habitats, preferably with clear, fast-flowing water within forests, savannahs, llanos and Pantanal. Neotropical River Otters are the greatest generalists among all otters. They are versatile in their habitat selection, and are tolerant to environmental change, being found in wastewater areas, rice plantations, swamps and even marine environments. They feed on fish, mollusks and crustaceans, and occasionally small mammals and birds, and much of their habitat selection is dependent on the abundance of food in the area. They are primarily diurnal, but sometimes can be active after dark. Graceful and fast swimmers, they are often seen swimming with just their heads popping above the water, or on occasion, basking at the water’s edge. The Neotropical River Otter communicates via scent markings and a variety of vocal whistles and screeches. Neotropical River Otters den in burrows on banks. Den location is dependent on fresh water, food availability and deep, wide bodies of water. The entrance to the den can be above or below the surface of the water, and dens are variable in
Neotropical River Otter Lontra longicaudis Photo by David Tipling Similar in appearance to its close cousins, the Northern and Southern River Otters, the Neotropical River Otter is 90-150 cm in length—its long, tapered