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Rainforests of the World 

October 3, 2012

Welcome Back to the Rainforest Blog – We have kept busy!

Electricians install new light fixtures from Skyrider

Welcome back to the Rainforest Blog.  We have taken a break from blogging while the Rainforest team has refreshed, reoriented and restructured itself.  As we return to the blog I thought I would share some of what we has kept us busy.  3 times a year the Rainforest exhibit closes for 2-3 days to allow us to ‘refresh’ the exhibit and take care of projects we can’t accomplish during the morning hours before the exhibit opens.  In mid-September the Rainforest closed for two days and  brought together the Rainforest Biologists along with Electricians, Engineeres, Operations staff, Exhibits staff and Custodial staff to work on a dizzying array of projects and maintenance.  Here are some of the projects we got done in just two short days:

New Perching for the Blue and Gold Macaws:

New perching for Macaws

Our two Blue and Gold Macaws got some new perching to keep them safely on the tree and give them some built in chew toys.

Refreshing Mist for Poison Darts:

New misting Poison Dart frogs 

Biologist Eric is extra pleased that Engineers were able to install a new misting system on the Poison Dart Frog exhibit.  The mist will keep humidity up which is critical for the frogs’ health and keeps the frogs visible and active during the day.

Busy Electricians:

Electricians were busy adding understory lighting to the second level of the Rainforest and installing  a mock up of a new design for overhead lighting. 

Electricians added new understory lighting

Lighting mock up

The new lighting when activated could dramatically reduce energy costs and improve light levels over the large trees to improve health.

Sky Riding

To access overhead lights, Electrician Ross used the Sky Rider – a two person cart that runs on a track at the top of the Bolla.

Refresh of a Costa Rica Planted Wall:

One of the Costa Rica planted walls was completely overhauled.  This in itself was a two day process requiring the support of several volunteers.

Planted wall before refresh

Above is a ‘before’ picture of the wall.

Removing old moss

First all the old plants and moss were removed.  Volunteer Celia separated old moss from living moss so living moss could be returned to the wall.

Clean slate

Here is a completely clean slate for the new wall.

Styrofoam Peanut Sausages

Next we installed recycled styrofoam peanuts wrapped in shade cloth into the wall to provide drainage.  Styrofoam peanuts will not break down as the moss does, will provide aeration and drainage and reduce the need for moss which is a nonrenewable resource.

Work in progress

Next new moss was packed into the wall as volunteer Lois demonstrates here.

Fresh new wall

Finally the new wall was planted with a variety of orchids, ferns and bromeliads representing a small piece of the vast diversity of epiphytes living in the canopy of the Costa Rican rainforest.

Painting and Deep Cleaning

Meanwhile… the Operations crew was busy touching up railing paint,

Repainting railings

cleaning exhibits,

cleaning exhibits

deep cleaning the gallery

More Deep Cleaning

and performing regular maintenance on the elevators.

Elevator Maintenance

All and all it was a busy couple of days.  I hope you all enjoy the results!

Thanks Eric Hupperts and Laurie Kormos for all photos in this blog posting.

Filed under: Herpetiles,Plants,Reptiles — Paphiopedilum @ 6:14 pm

February 12, 2011

Love is in the air (literally!) and on the rocks, and in the water….

So, for all the single ladies who:
• don’t like being inconvenienced by trite ‘pillow talk’ – take a page out of our  Ghost Mantid’s (Phyllocrania paradoxa) book and consume your partner post-amour.

mantid mating

Female mantids often eat males after copulation.

• are interested in guys from South America who can co-parent might want to meet our Turquoise Tanager (Tangara mexicana).


Photo by Rachael Tom

Male tanagers help feed chicks and protect the nesting site.

• feel it’s always good to have a ‘spare’ might be interested in our Machete Savane snake (Chironius carinatus).

Photo by Brian Freiermuth

Photo by Brian Freiermuth

Snakes and lizards have a bi-lobed reproductive organ called the hemipene.

• don’t trust a guy with a wandering eye should avoid entanglements with our Panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis).


Photo by Rachael Tom

Chameleon eyes are mounted on turrets that can move independently of each other.

are suckers for sweet talk and don’t mind carrying extra baggage should visit our  Slipper orchid (Paphiopedilum transvaal).

BO02 Paphiopedilum transvaal

Photo by Rachael Tom

The slipper-shaped pouch traps insects so they are forced to climb out collecting and depositing pollen that fertilizes the flower.

try not to get involved with guys that just can’t let go should keep their distance from our Red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas).

Photo by Brian Freiermuth

Amplexus is a form of pseudocopulation in which the male amphibian grasps the female with his front legs while fertilizing her eggs.

• prefer regurgitated fruit over a dozen roses might want to give our Blue and Gold macaw (Ara araruna) another look.


Photo by Rachael Tom

Parrots exchange food via regurgitation as part of a courtship ritual before breeding.

Filed under: Birds,Butterflies,Fish,Herpetiles,Insects & Arachnids,Plants — Vikki McCloskey @ 1:52 pm

February 9, 2011

Meet the Monitor!

Water monitors (Varanus salvator) range throughout Southeast Asia. As their name implies, they are often found in and around water. They can stay submerged for up to 30 minutes and have been known to swim great distances. This ability probably contributes to their extensive range.

Water Monitor

Photo by Rachael Tom

Among lizards, they are second in size only to the Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis.) Reportedly, they can get up to 10 feet long, however they more commonly grow to 5-6 feet in length.

They are powerful hunters and their diet consists of just about anything they can catch and eat- birds, small mammals, fish, eggs, crustaceans, lizards, snakes, frogs, small crocodiles, turtles, carrion, etc. They are good climbers and may take to the trees to escape danger but will more readily escape into the water.

Water Monitor

Photo by Rachael Tom

Our water monitor is the newest resident on the Borneo level of the rainforest exhibit. She came to us from a zoo in New Jeresy and has been settling in well. As she is very new to the exhibit, she does spend a fair amount of time hiding but can typically be seen basking in the late morning and early afternoon. Her diet here at the academy consists of mice, chicks and fish.
While most water monitors are greenish black with yellow to cream colored markings, she is completely black and patternless. It is a naturally occuring color pattern for this species, but not one that is commonly seen.

Water Monitor

Photo by Rachael Tom

Filed under: Herpetiles — vultures are friendly @ 3:42 pm

January 7, 2011

The Wondrous World of Glass Frogs

This summer, while in Costa Rica, Steinhart aquarium biologists were privileged to encounter a variety of glass frogs, Family Centrolinidae. These frogs are appropriately called glass frogs because of the see-through nature of their skin. Although glass frogs have some pigment in their skin, mostly green, it is possible to see through their bellies and observe their organs.

Hyalinobatrachium colymbiphyllum

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Above: Hyalinobatrachium colymbiphyllum

Glass frogs breed and lay their eggs on leaves overhanging water, usually streams. Eggs may be predated on by insects and so the male sticks around to protect the eggs.

Cocharanella granulosa

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Above: Cochranella granulosa eggs develop on a leaf over a stream at the Costa Rica Amphibian Research Center, located on Costa Rica’s Carribean slope.

Hyalinobatrachium valerioi

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Above: Hyalinobatrachium valerioi male gaurds eggs on a leaf above a stream on Costa Rica’s Pacific slope.

Snakes also may eat the eggs. We observed this snake, Dipsas longiferis eating the eggs of a granular glass frog, Cochranella granulosa. It is unlikely that the attending male could do anything to protect his eggs in this case. We did not observe him nearby.

Dipsas longiferis

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Above: Dipsas longiferis was seen eating a glass frog egg mass above a rainforest stream.

When the eggs hatch they fall into the stream below. The tadpoles lack pigment and as a result are red in coloration. While many tadpoles are dark in color and active in the water column or on the bottom of ponds or streams, glass frog tadpoles seem to be adapted well to life under rocks and other cover in streams.

Cochranella granulosa

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Above: Cochranella granulosa tadpole. Note the reduced eyes, long , strong swimming tail and lack of pigment.

Just before the tadpoles metamorphose into tiny little frogs their eyes begin to enlarge, their hind legs grow in and their digestive tracks change from one well suited to eating vegetation to one that will exclusively feed on animal prey.

Cochranella granulosa

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Above: Cochranella granulosa tadpole has developed legs, large eyes and the vertebrae are much thicker than those of earlier stage tadpole.

Concharanella granulosa

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Above: Cochranella granulosa tadpoles at different stages of development. Note the one on the left has started to develop the typical characters of a frog, though the mouthparts are still distinctly tadpole. The one on the right is much less developed with its spiral shaped gut being its most obvious characteristic.

Cochranella granulosa

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Above: This Cochranella granulosa has its front legs and is now a terrestrial animal, despite having not yet absorbed its strong swimming tail.

Cochranella granulosa

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth


Above: This Cochranella granulosa has nearly absorbed all of its tail. Within the next several days it will start feeding on bugs—an entirely different diet than it has ever had before.

During our trip we saw several species of glass frog. We were fortunate to bring back two species for exhibit. Currently, we are growing out tadpoles which will be the founders of a captive population that will supply our exhibits in the years to come.

Teratohyla spinosa

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Above: Teratohyla spinosa on the Carribean slope of Costa Rica.

Filed under: Herpetiles — rainforest @ 7:50 am

November 29, 2010

Farming ants and flying snakes, oh my!

Here at the California Academy of Sciences, we are lucky to be able to work with some pretty fascinating species. Recently there were two interesting news articles about some of these species.

Photo by: Rachael Tom

The first article looks at how leaf-cutter ants coevolved with the fungus that they farm, and it turns out they utilize a bacteria as a pesticide to keep their crop intact. The researcher says leaf-cutter ants have been farming for 50 million years! Looks like they got just a little head-start on humans. Read the article HERE.

Photo by: Rachael Tom

The other article looks at the snakes of Southeast Asia that have evolved the ability to glide in the canopy. One of the species they looked at is the paradise flying snake Chrysopelea paradisi , which you can find right here in the Borneo level in the rainforest at the Academy (see photo above). They have some pretty neat video. Read the article HERE.

Here’s a video of some of their research. I thought it was interesting how much of the snake hangs off the branch before it launches itself into the air.

Filed under: Herpetiles,Insects & Arachnids — rainforest1 @ 3:50 pm

November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving from your Rainforest Biologists!

Tis the season to celebrate a bountiful harvest. The rainforest biologists would like to give thanks that we are able to offer a wide variety of high quality food for the animals in our charge. This exhibit contains many different taxa that require many different food items. Here is a sample menu of what some of our rainforest inhabitants will be having for their Thanksgiving weekend….

Their diet consists of fruit, nuts, seeds, pellet, and vegetables.

parrot treats

Photo by: Rachael Tom

bowls of produce

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Neotropical Passerines
Their diet consists of fruit, seeds, vegetables, pellet, and protein items.

passerine diet

Photo by: Rachael Tom

We use several feeder insect species, including the larvae stage of mealworms Tenebrio molitor, waxworms Galleria mellonella, and soldier fly Hermetia illucens
feeder insects

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Carnivorous, herbivorous, or omnivorous; reptile diets are as diverse as the reptiles themselves. Some reptiles even eat other reptiles!

iguana diet

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Below are some of the feeder rodents we utilize. We order these frozen from a company that raises them specifically for food and humanely euthanizes them. They are then thawed out over a 24 hour period and then warmed so that the heat-sensing reptiles find them deliciously attractive.
feeder rodents

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Not as diverse in their nutritional requirements as reptiles, most of our amphibians enjoy insects.

Below is the ubiquitous cricket Acheta domesticus, probably the most popular feeder insect. We feed out various stages, from newly hatched (called pinhead) to adults, like below.

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Most butterflies are nectar eaters, though the owls and blue morphos like over ripe fruit as well. Here is a Heliconicus ismenius drinking nectar from one of the many nectar-producing plants in the rainforest. We also provide artificial nectar daily along with ripe fruit.

Heliconius ismenius_Rachael Tom

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Fish eat almost everything that is dropped into their tank!

pellet feed

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Some of the frozen fish we feed to our collection fish and other creatures at the Academy: capelin Mallotus villosus, herring Clupea spp, and trout Oncorhynchus mykiss.
herring, capelin, and trout, oh my

Photo by: Rachael Tom

It takes quite a bit of research and time to create diets that fulfill so many varied nutritional requirements for our hugely diverse live animal collection. Below you can see one of our paradise tanagers Tangara chilensis next to its diet. Enjoy your Thanksgiving everyone!
beautiful paradise

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Filed under: Birds,Butterflies,Fish,Herpetiles,Insects & Arachnids — rainforest1 @ 1:20 pm

November 17, 2010

Our Pipa pipa are breeding!

You may be wondering what a Pipa pipa is. Well, they are a very interesting amphibian species, Pipa pipa, that goes by the common name Suriname toad. They are an aquatic species native to northern South America with cryptic camouflage. If you look at them, they have little projections around their head and body that make them look a little like leaves. This helps them blend in very well. Even better is some of those little projections are sensitive to movements, which helps them recognize prey that swims too close.

Pipa pipa amplexus

Photo by: Brian Freiermuth

While those characteristics are cool, it is the Suriname toad’s reproductive biology that makes it truly remarkable. After a period of amplexus (as seen in the photo above), the female lays her eggs and the male fertilizes them. But what is different is that the eggs are not laid on a leaf or attached to a stick or under a rock like most frogs. Nope, this is one unconventional frog. Check this out:

eggs in back!

Photo by: Brian Freiermuth

Suriname toad females incubate their eggs in their own backs. That’s right, I said in their own backs!!! With the help of the male and some fancy acrobatics, the eggs are placed on the back of the female. Then they begin to embed into her back and are eventually mostly or entirely covered by a thin layer of skin. If that wasn’t crazy enough, the tadpoles never hatch from the eggs. Instead, they undergo complete development inside the back of the female. When they finally emerge they are little, nearly identical versions of the adult!

Pipa pipa

Photo by: Brian Freiermuth

Thinking to yourself, “Holy flipping frogs, Batman, I would love to see that!”? Well, now is your chance. On November 13th, we observed that one of our females has eggs on her back. Currently, our other female has been in amplexus with a male so it is very likely that she will lay eggs soon. It is expected that the eggs or at least the general position of them will be noticeable for several weeks. So if you want to see one of the neatest things in the natural world, come on in and check them out! They are on exhibit on the Amazon level near the anaconda exhibit.

Filed under: Herpetiles — rainforest1 @ 1:18 pm

October 12, 2010

In the Field: Poison Frogs

This August several Academy biologists, Brian Freiermuth, Victoria McCloskey, Nicole Chaney and Chief of Public Engagement, Chris Andrews, went to Costa Rica. An important outcome of the trip was bringing animals back for our exhibits. However, trips like this are beneficial to staff for a reason even more important than the individual animals they bring back: these trips allow staff to view how the animals behave in the wild. They give the biologist first hand knowledge about the animals he or she studies or takes care of. It is one thing to read about another person’s experiences with an animal in captivity or even in the wild. It is an entirely different and somehow more genuine experience to find animals and plants where they have evolved, where they persist, where they live.
This post is about our experiences with one very popular group of frogs, the poison frogs and how our experiences in the field may lead us to be better caregivers for our frogs at the Academy.
When many people think about poison frogs they think of bright colors and boldness due to the protection given by the poisons these colors advertise. These descriptions are not always wrong, but they are not entirely correct either. While poison frogs are brightly colored in many cases, there are many cases where the bright color of the species is limited to a few streaks of bright coloration or missing all together. This is true of Costa Rica’s representatives from the genus Phyllobates. While the Phyllobates of Columbia may be solid mint green, solid yellow or even orange, the Costa Rican varieties have thin yellow stripes or orange stripes on black backgrounds. These frogs are often on the ground and when startled, they propel themselves into cracks or deep into holes. They do not just sit out and dare predators (or rather slow handed biologists) to grab them up. When startled, they behave like most animals, they move quickly to a safe spot and wait the danger out.


Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

The term Poison Dart Frog is somewhat a misnomer. The name is often used to call out all the colorful frogs in the family Dendrobatidae. However, only three frogs in the entire family are really used to make darts poisonous. This species, Phyllobates lugubris is a member of the genus that contains these three species. However, there is no evidence that P. lugubris has been used by indigenous people for the purpose of increasing the lethality of projectiles.

Phyllobates terriblis

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

The brightly colored Phyllobates terriblis, regarded by many to be the world’s most poisonous animal, is in the same genus as some of the frogs we saw but is found in Columbia, not Costa Rica.

Phyllobates vitattus

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Phyllobates vitattus is found on the western side of Costa Rica.

Possibly the most emblematic of the Costa Rican poison frogs is the strawberry poison frog, Oophaga pumilio. This species has an extremely interesting life cycle wherein the mother of a tadpole brings food in the form of unfertilized eggs to the water vessel where the tadpole lives. In captivity, nobody has been successful in rearing baby strawberry poison frogs on a diet other than frog eggs. Additionally, some forms of these frogs (there are many color varieties which are sometimes associated with a geographic locality) are viewed as difficult to breed. While some forms are rare in captivity, this frog is far from a rare denizen of the deep primary forest. It is extremely abundant where it occurs and is and is more common in fairly disturbed areas than in pristine ones. We found dozens of them in a small area, in a brief amount of time. It was striking how many there were and where they were. I had the best luck finding them in a poorly maintained banana field and around stands of introduced bamboo. It is common dogma that this species requires bromeliads to complete its life cycle. In reality, these frogs will use a variety of water holding plants to reproduce. It is very likely that any small water body will be sufficient. In the localities where we found these frogs there were very few bromeliads.

Oophaga pumilio 'blue jeans'

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

The blue jeans form of the strawberry poison frog is common where it occurs. Many people who keep this frog in captivity find that this form is more challenging than other forms of strawberry poison frogs.

Oophaga pumilio 'red form'

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

The red form of strawberry poison frog was abundant in degraded habitats.

Oophaga pumilio

Photo copyright of: Chris Andrews

In less than an hour our group had captured about 40 strawberry poison frogs in one locality. Most of the frogs were female. We sorted through the group and selected six: three males and three females for transport back to the Academy.

The granular poison frog, Oophaga granulifera, is another poison frog that feeds its tadpoles eggs. This species is found on the west coast of Costa Rica and was also not uncommon, though not nearly as common as the strawberry poison frogs. Unlike the strawberry poison frogs we found, these frogs were much more difficult to catch. Males would sit out in the open on top of rocks and call. However, whenever we would get close, they would dive for cover. In many cases they would crawl into a deep crack or hole to the point where we would lose sight of them.
We found this species is two areas. The first, where we found a red form, was between a road and a stream in an area with secondary forest. The habitat was strewn with boulders and bromeliads were uncommon or absent. The second area was alongside a road but on a steep mountainside. Bromeliads were very abundant in the trees and we could hear the frogs calling from them. This was a higher elevation site than the first one and the form at this location was green, a pleasant surprise.

Oophaga granulifera 'red'

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

One of the target species for our foray to the pacific side of Costa Rica was the red granular poison frog, which we found calling, often on top of boulders, in secondary forest.

Oophaga granulifera 'green'

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Green granular poison frogs were easy to hear from the bromeliads above us and below us. However, I was unable to capture any myself. Fortunately, our guide and operator of the Costa Rica Amphibian Research Center, Brian Kubicki was able to capture two males and a female for us to bring back to the Academy.


Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Bromeliads were common in the roadside habitat where we found the green form of the granular poison frog.

The largest poison frog we found was the green and black poison frog, Dendrobates auratus. This species, like all members of the family, lays its eggs on land. When the tadpoles hatch they squirm onto the back of the adult who takes them to a water containing vessel. Green and black poison frogs were the only member of the family that we found on both coasts. We found them to be fairly abundant in most of the places where we found other species of poison frog.

Dendrobates auratus

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Green and black Poison frogs were found frequently on both coasts of Costa Rica.

The final member of the family Dendrobatidae that we found was the Talamanca rocket frog, Allobates talamancae. The rocket frogs are generally drab in coloration compared to some of the more gaudy members of the family. These frogs aren’t generally kept by hobbyists but they perform many of the same parental care and reproductive behaviors as their more candy-colored relatives. The term rocket frog is definitely applicable to these frogs. The speed at which these frogs hop under cover made them very challenging to try to catch.

Allobates talamancae

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

This male rocket frog was photographed just after calling. Note the slightly inflated vocal sac.

Seeing these frogs in the wild was a very special experience for us. It allowed us to observe things that just can’t be described in books or blogs. The connection to nature is an intangible thing that has to be experienced to understand. Beyond that, seeing these animals in the wild allows us to understand them better in captivity. For example, the populations of strawberry poison frogs that we observed were heavily scewed towards females. We know from studies of this species in the wild that the females feed locations, not necessarily their own tadpoles. Could it be that having more females in a captive group could increase the success of the young because the tadpoles would not have to rely solely on one female to feed them? One thing that we are trying at the academy now is keeping larger groups of strawberry poison frogs together rather than splitting them into pairs as conventional wisdom would dictate. Time will tell if this experiment will bear fruit.

Filed under: Herpetiles — rainforest @ 7:41 pm

September 28, 2010

Needle in a Haystack: Searching for Reptiles in Costa Rica

During our 10 day collecting trip to Costa Rica, our goal was to collect specific reptiles and amphibians in order to display them in our Rainforest exhibit and to form captive breeding programs for select species.

When planning our collecting locations, we generally targeted certain habitats where we knew various amphibian species would occur. Since amphibians are generally bound to water to complete their life cycle, they can be targeted based on the aquatic habitat that they reproduce in.


Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth


Photo copyright of: Chris Andrews


Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Reptiles on the other hand, can be a bit trickier to come across. This is especially true in a dense Rainforest.

Our strategy for finding reptiles was to first look for species that are known to occur around human habitation. Arboreal geckos tend to thrive in disturbed areas in and around human dwellings. Sheds and other human structures provide excellent habitat for geckos to find mates, lay eggs, and most importantly eat! The lights at night attract thousands of insects for this group of lizards to feed on.

Farm Shed

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Yellow-headed gecko

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Turnip Tailed Gecko

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Next, we spent a lot of time in the Rainforest targeting our amphibians based on habitats. Ponds are perfect places for certain frogs to find mates and lay eggs. This is a good place to find the reptiles that feed on frogs in addition to water loving turtles.


Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

White-lipped mud turtle

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Stream or riparian zones are another area where amphibians such as glass frogs choose to reproduce. We were able to find several reptile species along these fast moving streams at night.

Brown basilisk

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Slug eater

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Snail eater

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

The other reptiles we encountered on our trip were found simply by being in the right place at the right time. This usually means spending a lot of time “in the field” to increase chances of such encounters.

Black Iguana

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth


Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Green basilisk

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Hognose viper

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth


Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Overall we were able to find 25 species of reptiles on our trip, and collected 7 species to bring back with us. Keep an eye on the blog for when these new species will be on display on the Costa Rica level of our Rainforest Exhibit!

Filed under: Herpetiles — rainforest @ 5:13 pm

September 15, 2010

¡Recuerdos de Costa Rica!

Three of our rainforest biologists, along with Steinhart Aquarium Director Chris Andrews, had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica for 10 days in August of this year. The purpose of this trip was to collect specimens for the Costa Rica exhibits in our rainforest, develop in-country contacts, and to observe the natural habitats represented in our exhibits.

Biologists were able to become familiar with permitting and shipping processes, as well as gaining practical experience in the field. Our next few blogs will focus on some of the fascinating specimens that we observed and collected. We were also able to visit some places that focused on other areas of interest.

One of those places was the Aviarios Sloth Sanctuary, located near the mouth of the Estrella River, north of the beautiful beach town of Cahuita.
sloth wherabouts

This sanctuary rescues and rehabilitates sloths with special needs. Since receiving their first three-fingered sloth in 1992, Aviarios has successfully hand-reared over 100 orphaned sloths of both the species that are found in Costa Rica.
sloth house

Photo by: Chris Andrews

The two species of sloths that are found in Costa Rica are – Bradypus variegatus, or ‘Three-fingered’ and Choloepus hoffmanni, or ‘Two-fingered’. Can you tell which is which? Clue: since we can’t see their front feet so well in these photos, look at their head (or what you can see of it). Three-fingered sloths in this part of Costa Rica have a dark nape and and a dark line extending from their eyes.

Photo by: Chris Andrews


Photo by: Chris Andrews

Sloths are arboreal folivores, which means they live in the trees and primarily eat leaves. Cellulose is notoriously hard to digest, and up to 2/3 of a sloth’s body weight can consist of stomach contents. A sloth’s fur hosts two species of symbiotic cyanobacteria which in turn host many species of non-parasitic insects. The majority of sloth deaths in Costa Rica are due to contact with electrical lines and poachers.

Over the next couple weeks check back to see blog posts about the insects, reptiles, and amphibians we encountered on this trip. ¡PURA VIDA!

Filed under: Herpetiles — rainforest1 @ 8:18 am
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