Yanallpa at the Ucayali River & El Dorado River
For the first time in my life I am valuing that trees really are living creatures. It may sound absurd, obvious, but I sure have grown a deeper respect for the flora. If for a human being it is hard to find a partner, or for the gorgeous Blue-and-yellow Macaws that we saw early this morning, foraging together in an alliance they have made for life, can you imagine how hard it is for a creature that cannot move around? The problem could be solved by auto fertilization, but there is a reason for sex to have involved in our planet. With sex there is genetic variation. A tree needs to combine its genes with the ones from a different individual. Here in the rain forest plants of the same species are not close to each other, to avoid specialized herbivores. So their flowers have had to evolve ways to attract pollinators, ways to convince them to be faithful to their kind, produce odors to make them remember the way back. Then it comes the dispersal of the seed. As I mentioned, they are better of if far from the parent tree. That’s another evolutionary goal, to find dispersers, and for each one invent a different reward. It’s crazy; I am overwhelmed by the numerous details that a tree has to “arrange” just to make sure it produces enough offspring to succeed it.
People expect to find a forest of flowers, but for flora at the Equator, when it’s always warm, reproduction is good anytime, there is no “big bang” of blossoms like in temperature areas. No palette of reds, oranges, yellows, purples painting the largest rain forest in the world, but the prodigy of amazingly specialized and infinite co-adaptions. And so we are marveled again, by the grandeur of the forest during today’s explorations.
After the pre-breakfast Macaws, we went for either a hike or a skiff ride, in the Ucayali River area. Walkers learned about larvae that live in some palm trees, a good source of protein for people in the Amazon, and skiff riders found a unique creature, a new sighting even for our naturalists: a Bare-tailed woolly opossum. This is a nocturnal, arboreal, solitary marsupial, which feeds on fruits, nectar, and 20% on invertebrates. It was motionless and comfortable in a kind of nest up on a branch, along the creek, patiently watching while we took pictures and got all excited about it.
In the afternoon we learned about fruits of the Amazon (a plant invention for dispersal) and went for a skiff ride along the Dorado River. Spectacled caimans paid us a visit after sunset, and then the moon, with a glimmering pale halo, both up in the sky and reflected on the tranquil waters of the river.