From the Delfin II in the Amazon

Nov 06, 2012 - Delfin II

Green iguana
Amazon kingfisher
Armored catfish

Amazon Private Reserve & Nauta Canio

There is a song in Peru that we hear and dance to every week on board the Delfin II; it is “La Tangarana.” Husbands threaten their wives with Tangarana, and viceversa; today I happened to meet her, close and personal. It is actually a tree, a Fabaceae of the Tachigali genus, employed in construction, mixed with coca leaves for strength (done by the Kubeo Indians), and, more perversely, used in the past to torture, punish, or even kill human beings.

It’s because this fast growing species, hollow inside, gives home to fire ants. Ancestral people of the Amazon used to tie their enemies to the Tangarana; then Spanish learned to do the same with Indians who did not follow their rule. Why does a tree host ants anyway? For protection, as easy as that, fewer herbivores would dare to get close to a Tangarana; I for sure will never venture.

And the rest of our day went like that, learning about the interactions in between species. If the fig is a fig, and there are more than 700 species of them, it is thanks to its specific fig wasp. If the hummingbird has a certain kind of beak, and there are close to 100 hummingbirds in Peru, is for the shape of the particular flower it pollinates, and so on and so on. It is overwhelming to learn how a sort of “arms race” of plant vs. herbivore, prey vs. predator, is one of the factors behind tropical forests’ rich biodiversity. Time will never be sufficient to absorb it all.

After our morning hikes through the primary forest of Amazon Natural Reserve, we returned to the Delfin II for a lecture and then lunch. In the afternoon some choose to explore Nauta Canio by kayak, others by skiff. We are aware that this isn’t the end of our day’s activities though.

After dinner we grab our flashlights and off we go to hear the sounds of the forest at night, to find unimaginable shapes in the wings of moths, on the back of frogs, the bark of trees. Pahuachiro trail makes us remember we have senses other that sight. We smell the wet soil of this flooded forest, hear the singing cicadas, feel the spiders’ webs we go through, taste the musky odor of bat pollinated flowers. It’s a whole different world we had forgotten about. The primate deep inside our brain seems to be awakening, briefly. I just hope there are no Tangaranas around!

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About the Author

Paula Tagle

Expedition Leader

Paula grew up in Guayaquil where she obtained an undergraduate degree in geology from the Polytechnic University of Guayaquil. She enjoyed many field trips all around Ecuador and during her vacations traveled in Central and South America in the hope of learning more about her people and culture. The last year of her studies she worked at a mine looking for a more ecologically responsible way of recovering gold. Interested more in volcanoes than in raw materials, she came to Galápagos, a mecca for geologists, in 1992. She was bewitched by the other wonders of the islands and became a naturalist guide for the Galápagos National Park.

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