The Cloud Forest Biological Corridor

Old travel mates Brenda and Brian were flying in from Vancouver for a three-day weekend and asked me to show their young daughter, Sophia, some tropical wildlife. Sophia, age nine, was already an avid naturalist and bird-watcher. She made it clear via our Skype chitchatting, that she was dying to see what the cloud forest was really like. Her curiosity had […]

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Ecosystems of the Mayan Rain Forest

An incredible diversity of life exists in the Mayan Rain Forest, the biological crossroads of the Americas For centuries the land of the Mayan rain forest has been of particular interest to biologists because of its unique location. It is at the crossroads of two of Earth’s major life zones: the Nearctic Realm (North America) and the Neotropical Realm (South […]

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The Roatan Reef

by Monish Welcome A glistening island treasure of the Caribbean, Roatan offers numerous activities such as boating, fishing and undersea exploration of the Mesoamerican Reef. The reef, a main attraction for divers and snorkelers, is divided into a north side and south side in Roatan, as well as its island neighbors, Utila and Guanaja. In the north side of Roatan, […]

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Dragon Fruit, the Nighttime Fragrance

By Dr. Nicholas M. Hellmuth

Pitayas are one of the climbing cactaceas, named after its habit to use trees as a physical support. Pitaya (pitahaya) is a night-blooming epiphytic cactus, which is common throughout Guatemala and surrounding countries. Many hotels in La Antigua Guatemala and around Lake Atitlán, El Remate and Tikal have pitaya and/or their relatives blooming over the summer. For example, hundreds of […]

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Crocodiles, caimans and alligators in Mayan art & mythology of Guatemala

Crocodiles (photos by Nicholas Hellmuth)

There are two species of crocodiles and one species of alligator in the Mayan regions of Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and Mexico. Caiman crocodilus is a caiman, but considered an alligator (not a crocodile) despite its name “crocodilus.” The pattern of scales on this creature is very distinctive: no spikes or sharp spines but lots of raised bumps in a regular […]

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The Nance Tree

Seven Macaw is the False Sun deity, featured in the Mayan myth of the Popol Vuh. His name in the K’iche’ Mayan language of Guatemala is Vukub-Cakix. The perch and favorite food of Seven Macaw is specifically identified as a nance tree in most translations of the Popol Vuh. “This is the great tree of Seven Macaw, a nance, and […]

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Sacred turtles in Mayan art and iconography

A new FLAAR Report* now lists all of the animals that were sacred or otherwise considered as special by the Classic Maya. There are animals that are related to the sky (constellations, stars, planets), the forests and those that are associated with rivers, lakes, swamps and the oceans. These waters are conflated by the cosmology of the Preclassic and Classic […]

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The Sacred Red Bean

But not from a vine, from a tree — the Palo de Pito The palo de pito tree is commonly found throughout the Highlands of Guatemala. It produces a bright red bean, which is used for divination by Maya shamans. The book of Popol Vuh is very clear about the red beans from this tree being used by the gods […]

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The Ancient Maya And The White-tailed Deer

Mayan deer whistle (courtesy of Museo de Arte Precolombino y Vidrio Moderno, Casa Santo Domingo)

Deer are among the 10 most commonly depicted animals on Mayan vases, plates and bowls of the Late Classic period. Although two species of deer inhabit the Mayan heartland, the white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus, is the one usually depicted in Mayan art. For the Classic Maya, the deer was in some ways as important as the jaguar, monkey and snakes. […]

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Ceiba pentandra

Sacred tree for Classic Maya, national tree for Guatemala today by Dr. Nicholas M. Hellmuth Look at the sacred ceiba tree and you may notice that its spines resemble the round bumps that the Maya incorporated on their incense burners, cache vessels and urns. Notice the pattern of conical, spine-like protuberances on these thousand-year-old ceramic vessels. You get the same […]

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