Costa Rica

Costa Rica is the most biodiverse country in the world for its size. Its many eco-systems harbour a stunning array of exotic creatures—a great evolutionary melting pot resulting from the migration of animals from North and South America when a great land bridge joined the two continents 3 million years ago.

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About three and a half million years ago the great continents of North and South America were separate. Then volcanic islands were thrust up, eventually coalescing into a vital land bridge. Animals from North and South America migrated to this new land, and a great evolutionary melting pot of creatures was established.

Costa Rica, the most biodiverse of the 7 countries here, is flanked by 2 seas with a mountainous system running along its spine, creating numerous and varied microclimates. These have driven the evolution of a bizarre and exotic range of plants and animals. In the tangled tropical rainforests new world monkeys, like the acrobatic Spider monkey, have developed a special ‘prehensile’ tail to help them navigate. Like a fifth limb, it’s as sensitive as the palm of its hand. Even weird mammals, like the tamandua, a miniature anteater, and the kinkajou, a pollen eating mammal, have a ‘prehensile’ tail that enables them to move around the thick arboreal environment. In this dense green world, colour plays a key role in meeting, mating and avoiding being eaten. Birds have evolved amazing colours to be seen by their mates. The resplendent quetzel males have a 2 foot tail, and the hummingbird sports a coat of brilliant iridescent colours that changes depending on your viewing perspective. The forests are also home to perhaps the world’s smartest monkey, the capuchin. They are masters at exploiting food sources in the jungle, using great dexterity and ingenuity to access the jungle bounty.

Central America is also a paradise for bats, with 15% of the world’s species here. The most unusual is the Bulldog bat, which catches fish by skimming rivers with its long talons, acrobatically scooping them up into its mouth as it flies.

The upthrust of the central Costa Rican mountains by the same tectonic movement that created the land bridge, has had the effect of creating new species. The white collared manakin bird, which performs a bizarre flying ritual full of clicks and buzzing sounds, has a cousin, called the orange manakin, that performs the same mating ritual. Divided by the mountains, they were once the same species.

The appearance of the land bridge in the North American seaway divided marine species as well. The most famous is the olive ridley sea turtle and its cousin the kemp ridley sea turtle. Every year these 2 species perform a synchronized mass nesting called the ‘arribada’ on opposite coast lines. They were once a single species that used to migrate through the Central American seaway between the 2 continents. The up thrust of the land bridge has resulted in this bizarre annual beach nesting.

Episodes From This Series

Borneo

48 minutes / 2014

Japan

50 minutes / 2010

Brazil’s Cerrado

50 minutes / 2010

Australia

50 minutes / 2010

New Zealand

50 minutes / 2010

Costa Rica

48 minutes / 2014

Africa’s Albertine Rift

1 hour / 2014

China – Roof of the World

1 hour / 2014

Western Ghats and Sri Lanka

1 hour / 2014

The Arid Namib

1 hour / 2014

Madagascar

1 hour / 2010

Africa’s Rift Valley lakes

1 hour / 2010