Chapter 7 Habitats
Lupé liked exploring her homerange. There were many different places to go with different kinds of foods and vegetation. The different habitats are very diverse with so much variety, there are so many things Lupé needs to learn about her home.
Every night her family sleeps in the plantain plantation. When they wake up at dawn, they spend some time feeding on insects, plantain nectar and fruit, and then they go off in search of other things to eat.
Usually they went first to the river. Lupé liked the river, there were many things to see and do. There were many different kinds of trees and there was usually water. Lupé’s family lived in an area with dry tropical forests. Are two seasons: a wet season when it rains most days and a dry season when it almost never rains at all. During the wet season it’s fairly sunny during the day, but sometime between 4:00 in the afternoon and 7:00 in the evening the skies will open up and it will rain really hard. Lupé and her family will cuddle together and watch the rain and lightning. Sometimes it’s really close and oh, so loud! Usually, though it isn’t very close. One night Lupé noticed that right after a lightning flash all of the fireflies would also flash. She guessed the fireflies thought the lightning was some big firefly they all had to call to with their lights.
The wet season is a time of abundance in the dry forest. All of the trees are thick with leaves and they produce flowers and fruit. There are always more insects in the wet season and it’s easy to find water.
The dry season is very different. It is very hot and very sunny everyday for many months. It gets so dry that many of the trees become dormant: they go to sleep until the rains come. When it’s really hot they lose water through their leaves just like humans sweat. They need to protect the fluids in their bodies, so the dormant trees shed their leaves, Most plants need their leaves to make nutrients. Plants can’t go looking for food, they have to make it. They capture the suns rays and, through photosynthesis, they make energy for their own survival. When they lose their leaves, plants can’t photosynthesize their own food, so they stop making flowers, nectar and fruit. So there is much less food in the dry season.
There is also much less water in the dry season for Lupé’s family to drink. The monkeys get much of their water in fruit, nectar and leaves, but in the dry season there is so little fruit or nectar and the leaves are usually smaller, thinner and drier. Most of the puddles and seasonal streams dry up. So do all of the tree bowls. So the monkeys have to lick up all the morning dew that they can and they have to go to the river to drink.
There are also fewer insects in the dry season. Lupé has to spend many hours each dry carefully uncurling dry leaves, digging out plant litter in tree crevices and searching the ground for as many insects as she can find.
Lupé’s mom and aunts know all the other places where they can find water when it gets really dry. It’s one reason females stay living together: mom’s need plenty of food and water for their children, so they stay in the same troop their entire life: they know every tree, every spring, every river and stream.
Everything changes when the rains return. The first night after the first rain, so many cicadas begin buzzing. Invertebrates like insects, lobsters and shrimp have their skeletons on the outside of their body. In order to grow they have to shed their older, smaller skeleton and replace it with a larger roomier one to grow into. When the first rain sops there are many cicadas clinging to the sides of people’s houses, leaves and branches. The back of their abdomen splits open and they crawl out of the old exoskeleton. At first their wings are wrinkled and damp and their bodies are very, very soft. But within a few hours their wings flatten and dry and the new exoskeleton hardens making a strong protective shell.
Lupé knows the next morning she’ll find lots of the old exoskeletons of the larvae. When she was younger she couldn’t tell the difference between a living cicada and an empty exoskeleton. But now she’s old enough to know there is in not anything inside them to eat.
Within a few days of the first rains there will be little puddles in the open areas not covered with forest vegetation. These little puddles will have little black dots floating on the surface. In a few days little tadpoles will hatch. Soon there will be tiny toads all over the river banks.
Vegetation quickly returns with the rains. Trees begin soaking up water through their roots. When they have enough, most begin making leaf buds. Some of these are very tasty and nutritious. The leaf buds will open and tiny leaves emerge. Soon, all of the trees will be covered in leaves again. Flowers and fruit will begin being available in a few months.
There are some trees that make flowers before they regrow their leaves. The giant Kapok trees do this. Lupé thinks the huge trees with bare branches decorated with bright pink flowers are pretty. When the flowers fade, leaves will begin emerging. Troops of howlers will be found in the huge Kapoks eating the flowers and new leaves. Lupé doesn’t like those flowers or the kapok leaves, but the howler monkeys seem to love them almost as much as figs!
The dry season is nice because Lupé doesn’t have to worry about the rain and lightning and there are fewer mosquitoes, but the wet season is a much better time to find food!
Topics for Education
clams, crabs, wood stork
red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle and R. harrisonii, Rhizophoraceae),
black mangroves (Avicennia germinans and A. bicolor, Verbenaceae),
tea mangrove (Pelliciera rhizophorae, Theaceae),
white mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa, Combretaceae),
buttonwood mangrove (Conocarpus erectus, Combretaceae).
arboreal mangrove tree crab (Aratus pisonii) eats mangrove leaves and lives only at the crowns of the trees to avoid another arboreal crab, Goniopsis pulcra and/or Goniopsis cruentata.
The Beach: opening oysters, ghost crabs, hermit crabs, humans
Human altered habitats