Monkey's Bridge: Mysteries of Evolution in Central Americaby David Rains Wallace, Sierra Club Books
When the Panama land bridge between North and South America formed three million years ago, plants and animals surged back and forth in the "Great American Biotic Interchange," an evolutionary cross-fertilization that has created one of the world's richest and most fascinating environments. The Monkey's Bridge is the story of Central America's role as an evolutionary… See more details below
When the Panama land bridge between North and South America formed three million years ago, plants and animals surged back and forth in the "Great American Biotic Interchange," an evolutionary cross-fertilization that has created one of the world's richest and most fascinating environments. The Monkey's Bridge is the story of Central America's role as an evolutionary link between continents. Award-winning nature writer David Rains Wallace has explored this complex region for more than twenty years. He has ridden on horseback to an unexplored Costa Rican volcano forest, snorkeled the coral reefs of Belize, ascended Honduras's remote Platano River with Miskito Indian guides, and examined Central America's little-known paleontological record at obscure rural fossil sites. Although Europeans colonized Central America nearly five centuries ago, scientists did not perceive its role in New World history until the nineteenth century, and debate about its evolutionary past continues. No place reflects the sweep of evolutionary change more than Central America, where northern and southern organisms mingle in ecosystems ranging from Guatemalan pine-oak forests to Panamanian rain forests. An exploration of this kaleidoscopic evolutionary story, The Monkey's Bridge artfully combines vivid travel-writing, reflections on the contemporary scene, and meditations on ecological values unique to this region.
Five million years ago, the Isthmus of Panama, the final puzzle-piece of what became known as Central America, poked its head above water, initiating the Great American Biotic Interchange. Species that had been specific to either North or South America commenced to cruise: dogs, cats, and deer went one way across the bridge, armadillos, porcupines, and opossums the other. Wallace's own first trip south, in 1971, was to Guatemala, where the unusual mixture of animals and plants aroused his curiosity. Why, he asked himself, was he running into turkeys and foxes in the deepest jungle? So he went back, time and again, to peruse the land bridge's complex physiography, a tangle of blue mountains and malarial lowlands, high plateaus and sierras, jaguar-infested savannas, lively volcanoes, and limestone caves. While delineating these landscapes, as well as the astounding fauna and flora, he twines the narrative with histories of Western adventurers (like Christopher Columbus, for whom a land bridge was the last thing he wanted to encounter, and who died convinced that Panama was southern China); the studies of naturalists such as the pirate William Dampier and Dominican priest Francisco Ximenez; tales of fossil-hunter Barnum Brown and paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould; and a portrait of the lives of today's inhabitants, described by one researcher thus: "You can go from one little municipio to the next and find not just a completely different language, but a completely different way of looking at the world." Wallace's wildlife gleanings are enviable: pheasant cuckoos, orange-bellied trogons, rainbow cichlids.
A vibrant natural (and human) history of a biomassive throughway where large patches still remain unknown.
- Sierra Club Books
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.01(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.79(d)
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