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Exploring the Andes

I’ve had the good fortune to travel to countries all over the world, and one of my favorite places to visit are the mountainous and forest regions near Titayen, Haiti. The country has a rich ecosystem and a diverse array of animal and plant species. Yet, when I reflect on my journey through the area, I often wonder what it would be like to explore the longest continental mountain range in the world: the Andes. I explored this part of nature through the Internet, and I’ve discovered some bizarre and amazing things that dot the Andes landscape.

The Andes mountain range is home to around 17 percent of all plant life in the world. This is impressive, considering the Andes region itself takes up less than one percent of the Earth’s surface.

The Polylepis tree, one of the most common species in the region, adapts to a very unstable water supply with thick bark and small leaves. This evergreen species begins photosynthesis as soon as the weather gets warmer, and the smaller leaves keep water intact within the tree.

Wild potatoes are common in the Andes as well, and provide a food source for many local humans and animals.

But what makes the Andes truly weird are the mind-boggling discoveries reported by explorer Raul Mayo: hundreds of giant oyster fossils – 12,300 feet above sea level. The fossils were around 3.5 meters in circumference and 1.1 meters in length. An oyster this size would weigh in at a hefty 300 pounds, and could make pearls over a foot in radius.

On top of this, there were many indications of water erosion in the places Mayo explored. More than likely, this region was once beneath the Pacific Ocean, which was at one time overrun by these enormous oysters.

Scientists are also baffled by these fossils’ ability to survive the test of time. These oyster species were dominant before the last ice age, more than 200 million years ago. We are lucky to see their remains today.

More fossil discoveries in the area include large seahorses and other large marine animals in and around Lake Titicaca on the border of Peru and Bolivia. These animals living descendants, still swimming in the lake today, are among the most diverse and unique species on the planet. Many scientists consider these species an example of evolution working at its finest.

Learning about these aspects of the Andes makes me want to visit them now more than ever. The world has too much to offer to see it all, but this is something I really want to see. St. Augustine once said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” My book has a few pages, but there are still many left to add. My journey through understanding my world has just begun.

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