2. Pygmy Three-Toed Sloth (Escudo de Veraguas, Panama)
If you’ve been to a natural history museum, you may have come across the giant sloth, a long-extinct creature that looks more suited to an episode of Game of Thrones than real-life history. The last remaining pockets of land sloths existed in the Caribbean as recently as 4,000 ago—as much as 6,000 years after they disappeared from the mainland. That might just make the pygmy three-toed sloths that reside in the trees on Escudo de Veraguas— a tiny, unpopulated island in the Bocas del Toro off the coast of Panama—the closest living relation to these legendary prehistoric beasts. Tiny in terms of their physical size and range, they’ve only recently become known to science and declared a distinct species; it’s believed they derived from a group of brown-throated three-toed sloths which became isolated from the Central American mainland. Currently, the pygmy three-toed sloth population numbers just about 80.