Natural History News

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Cuba is a country filled with cultural and historical significance, and one of the prime examples is the island's Valley of the Sugar Mills. Along with the neighboring city of Trinidad, this region was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 and now serves as an intriguing archaeological site for visitors to explore in Cuba.

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The Amazon River and its surrounding rainforests are shrouded in mystery, and scientists are constantly discovering new species and information culled from the South American jungles. For the most part, experts visit the jungle to study it in person, but new research has created a 3D map of a three-mile stretch of the rainforest in Peru.

September 21, 2012

Painted By Achiote

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Achiote is a beautiful shrub that grows throughout the Amazon Basin and it is frequently found in villages as it produces pretty pink flowers, typically has a nice shrub shape and the fruit produces seeds that are used as a red dye called “annatto.”

The fruits from this shrub are not edible and they grow in clusters of red or brownish red with each fruit is covered in spines. The spines are not extremely hard but rather prickly to the touch. It is, however, the seeds within the pod that have value.

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Cuba's rich and long history, coupled with isolation from much of the developing world until recently, has created a unique culture on the island nation that will intrigue and surprise visitors as they delve into the daily lives of locals on International Expeditions’ people-to-people Cuba travel program. There's even a religion among parts of the Afro-Cuban population on the island, known as the Santeria religion, that may be completely unfamiliar to individuals from other parts of the world.

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Everyone knows that Cuban cigars are hailed as the best in the world. But what is it about them that sets them apart from smokes that originate from other countries? The answer lies within the long and fascinating history of Cuban cigars, which visitors partaking in people-to-people Cuba travel can experience firsthand.

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Can unmanned vehicles help speed up archaeological digs? That is the hope of Vanderbilt archaeologist Steven Werne and engineering professor Julie A. Adams. They have developed a product called SUAVe - for Semi-autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Pronounced "SWAH-vey," this revolutionary product aims to greatly reduce the time it takes to create a three-dimensional model of a site versus using current technology. As in 10-15 minutes compared to two to three entire field seasons faster!

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Every four years, the International Union for Conservation of Nature evaluates the status of animal species and determines if they belong on the Red List of Threatened Species, and the latest list has many conservationists worried. The number of bird species on the Red List jumped from 1,253 to 1,331 and the majority of the newly added species are found in the Amazon, specifically in the Brazilian Amazon Basin where the new Forest Code loosens protections on the Amazon.

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Low-level fires are a natural but infrequent occurrence in rainforests, but due to industrialization, logging and other deforestation, the severity of forest fires is increasing. This may pose a serious threat to the plants and animals of these regions, and many scientists are concerned for the future of the Amazonian rainforest. The impact of forest fires on local bird populations in Brazil was the focus of a recent study conducted by researchers from the U.K. and Brazil.

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Welcome to Lake Nicaragua. When it comes to Latin America, you probably think raging rivers and large ocean bodies like the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. However, while both of these oceans are an important part of the coastline of Nicaragua, Lake Nicaragua exists as the country's largest lake and one of the most unique lakes in Central America.

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