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(No hairy spiders in this post.)

Industrious Ants

There are a couple of other critter characters we’d like to introduce you to that we met in South America. The first is the leafcutter ant. According to Wikipedia (so you know it’s true), leafcutter ants form the largest and most complex animal societies on earth next to humans. Another article on Mother Nature Network explains how scientists are even studying these ants to find solutions to complicated people problems like finding new forms of clean energy.

I was fascinated hypnotized by the ants because they were just so darn productive. Check out this video of the industrious little suckers:

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We first ran into leafcutter ants in Paraty, Brazil. Simon, the owner of our pousada, told us when a colony decides to goes after a particular tree that tree is toast. We saw them again in Rio and followed them up a street and all the way around a corner to a park where they disappeared behind a fence. I shot footage of the ants in this video both in the Amazon and at Tayrona National Park in Columbia. In Tayrona, colonies of these ants striped the jungle trail to the beach. As we hiked along, whoever was in front would yell back, “Ants!” as a warning for the other not to step on our friends.

Big-Beaked Bird with an Even Bigger Personality

We met our share of birds in South America. (Remember Tina, the macaw parrot that lived at the guesthouse in Buenos Aires?) Juanito, the toucan who lived at Otorongo Expeditions’ lodge in the Amazon, just cemented our impression that many birds have big personalities.

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When I brought the camera out, Juanito was mostly subdude. But I was able to capture a few moments where he chased the staff around the property. My favorite Juanito staple though was when he would hop up the stairs to the lodge common room and stare at us through the screen and attempt to peck his way in while we were having breakfast. He had an entitled determination that didn’t quite fit his small stature but was pure comedy.

~ Molly

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Ok, I have to admit this post is mostly another attempt to share with you how cool it was to ride around all day on a boat in the Amazon. On the day that we went to go visit the big ceiba tree, we took the boat into the thick of the jungle to get to the right spot. It was very Indiana Jones.

Our guide Osmar explained that the changing levels of the Amazon River during the dry and wet seasons can create and destroy islands. The place where the big tree stood would soon become harder to access because of the falling water levels. You can see in the video and some of our pictures how high the water line used to be just a few weeks before we arrived.

The tree itself was probably one of the biggest trees I’ve ever seen in real life. But since its wood is good for boats, this species often fall to loggers. Otorongo Expeditions along with a nearby village worked to protect this one, which already had one scar from a logging attempt.

Osmar was also nice enough to climb high into the big tree to provide this wonderful perspective shot that shows just how big the big tree really is.

Oh and on the way back from our big tree visit, Nellu got the opportunity to play Tarzan.

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~ Molly

Yeah, I’ve been goofing off a little bit since getting back to the states. But with our re-exit date fast approaching, we realize it’s best to get you all the stories from South America we’re still holding on to and start Asia with a fresh slate. So…

Here’s the first of our Amazon series. A new post on randombutbeautiful.com highlighting some design secrets from the Amazon just in case you need a little inspiration for your own biomimicry. Just click on the picture below and it will take you there.

~ Molly

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