One of the most perfect examples of how interconnected everything is to one another in nature is thru the example of the Cecropia tree. While in Panama this past summer, I furthered my studies on tropical plants and their importance to different species of animals, insects, and birds. Today's post focuses on the importance one species can have on the world. Remove it and the balance is destroyed. When a species goes extinct on this planet, something else is affected. At first, it may not be noticed, but eventually it will catch up with what I'd like to call the "cascade effect". While the Cecropia is an easy example to use for biodiversity, it's certainly not the only tree or plant that serves multiple purposes in our natural environment. I could write about the importance of the Saguaro cactus in the Sonoran desert and how it plays an important role for mammals, insects, and birds alike, but I took these pictures and wanted to use them in my write!
Here's an example on how interconnected everything is. Inside the Cecropia, a type of ant lives. If any movement is felt on the bark of the tree, the ants will come out and attack. In a sense, they become the guardians of the tree in a very healthy symbiotic way. If you tap the tree, the ants will immediately come out from the bark and attack! So you may ask, "Then how does the sloth live off this tree?" Well the sloth is so SLOOOOOOOOOW moving that it is unaffected by the ants. While we were in Panama, it appeared that every one of these Cecropia trees had a sloth hanging out in it!
There are a lot of varieties out there. Some have larger leaves while others have smaller forms.Cecropia species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including the Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia). The leaves and buds are also eaten by sloths as their main source of food. But many herbivores avoid these plants: most Cecropia are myrmecophytes, housing dolichoderine ants of the genus Azteca, which will vigorously defend their hostplant against getting eaten.
|Keel Billed Toucan at a Refuge Center. I also have a photo of this bird in the wild at this link. |
I've found the Panama series to be very rewarding and educational for me. If you are interested in the Panama journals, head over to the month of August where you'll find daily accounts of our adventures there. I'd like to thank our landscaping guide Steve for his insightful background at La Loma on Isla Bastimentos in Bocas Del Toro. Steve gave me a guide on the thousands of tropical trees that were found around Panama. During a tropical downpour, I took his book and a candle where I hung out in a hammock and read....and read. Each time I travel, I focus on a new group of trees that I learn about...and slowly I add each tree to my list of trees discovered. I still have a long ways to go, but that's the part I love about all of this. More tomorrow....