Thursday, January 31, 2013

Top Ten Most Interesting Arboreal Mammals (Part 1)

Today, in honor of the birthday of Charlie Bowers, we are going to be taking a "Top Ten" approach to some pretty cool arboreal mammals.  FYI, for those of you who don't know, arboreal means an animal that lives in the trees!  So let's dive right in!  For Part 2 of this duology, click HERE.

10.  Squirrel - Although a fairly common animal and really not that exciting at first glance, the squirrel is actually quite the exciting animal!  Incredibly acrobatic, the squirrel is superbly adapted for an arboreal lifestyle.  Need more proof?  Click the link right HERE to be amazed!
One of the koalas at the San Diego Zoo in California.  Photo Credit: Julie Neher
9.  Koala -  Other than the kangaroo, the koala is probably the most iconic Australian marsupial.  Many myths abound in regards to the koala.  For example, many people believe that the koala is constantly "adjusting its altitude," so to speak, due to something in the leaves of the eucalyptus trees that they consume.  While it seems quite likely that the koala is constantly baked due to its lackadaisical attitude, it's not actually true: the koala just spends a great deal of its day asleep in order to digest the tough vegetation that composes its diet.  As a matter of fact, the 20-22 hours a day the koala sleeps makes it the sleepiest  mammal!  (For more information about the koala and its digestion, click HERE). 

8.  Primates - Perhaps the order of mammals that is most superbly adapted to a life in the trees, the primates include everything from the aye-aye to the orangutan, from the tarsier to us humans!  Thought to have started evolving in North America or Asia around 65 MYA or so, before even the dinosaurs died out, today there are over 200 extant species, with new ones still being discovered, like the lesula monkey that was discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2012 (pictured above).

7.  Binturong - Often called the "Bear-cat," the binturong is the largest of the strange group of animals known as the civets.  (For more about civets and their relatives, click HERE).  Native to southeastern Asia, the binturong is omnivorous, but seems to consume fruit the most in its diet, and is particularly partial to figs.  Although the binturong is labeled as "Critically Endangered" in China, the IUCN labels the species as a whole as merely "Vulnerable."

6.  Sloth - When you hear the word "sloth," you might think of someone or something being lazy.  There is a very good reason for that association: the sloth is quite sloth!  As David Attenborough says in the excellent BBC production "Life of Mammals," "The sloth moves as if it's powered by the wrong sort of batteries."  Sleeping around 20 hours a day, the sloth is the second sleepiest mammal, right after the koala.  While it sleeps, the sloth hangs upside down from tree branches.  Sounds like a lot of work, right?  Actually, it really isn't: the sloth simply hooks its claws over the tree branch, and relaxes all of its muscles.  If a human hunter shoots a sloth hanging from a tree, it will usually simply remain hanging from the tree branch, anchored by its claws!  Then the hunter actually has to physically climb up into the tree to retrieve its prize!

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