December 4, 2014
“Tropical Nature”, written by Adrian Forsyth and Ken Miyata, is about the many different organisms and ecological life that inhabits the rainforests in Central and South America. A thourough, yet simple guide of the tropical ecosystem, “Tropical Nature” exemplifies the beauty and mystery hidden within the jungle.
The observations made by the primary author, Adrian Forsythe, about the different plants and animals they studied were very precise. One such example is when the author explains the relationship between tropical plants and ants and elaborates on the cost-benefits of the relationship: “Tropical plants benefit from the presence of ants, at least from the presence of insectivorous ants. Patrolling ants glean the foliage, picking up and eating the eggs and larvae of voracious herbivores.”(108) Besides recording observations of the different connections between the plants and animals, he also examined the way different organisms survived the brutal environment. In chapter elleven, “Artful Guises”, the author describes several different methods which a number of tropical species use to avoid predators: “Superb sticklike phasmids and geometrid caterpillars go so far as to duplicate the bud scars and bark texture of the twigs on which they feed and hide. Katydids that live in the wettest forests…make no effort to blend in with their surroundings. Instead, they resemble something every bird knows and ignores-a bird dropping.” (127)
The author takes a very curious and somewhat careless approach to the envrionment he is studying. Although he is aware of the possible dangers the rainforests of South America have to offer, he still needs to push forward to continue his research. He has had several dangerous encounters during his explorations. Some were imaginary, like when he thought that he had come directly across the path of a black caiman: “I reached a point where the creek deepened and slowed…shuffling through waist-deep water. I looked down to see if the water was getting any deeper, and there not three feet in front of me, glowing out of a deep pool, was a pair of bright orange eyes. There was no place to run, and I couldn’t move quickly in any case because I was waist-deep in the stream. When I looked back into the pool after reaching the safety of land, I discovered…that the glowing eyes were not those of a caiman but a large, succulent, freshwater prawn of the genus Macrobrachium.” (189) Then there was the time that he endured the effects of venom caused by a tropical ant that crawled through his clothes as he was collecting moths: “I felt something drop down the neck of my shirt and scurry across my shoulder…It drove its stinger into my neck and shoulder flesh four times in rapid order, and each sting felt as if a red hot spike was being driven in. My field of vision went red and I felt woozy. The shouts and nervous laughter of my companion felt far away. After an hour of burning, blinding pain I was left with a sore back and lymph nodes in my armpit so swollen that I couldn’t move my arm without pain for the next two days.” (108)