Hayden, Amelie, Arjun & Kristen

We had another later start this morning with breakfast being served at 8am. Our day was overcast with light rain for most of the day (surprise surprise). Undeterred by the lackluster weather, we met our guide for the day, Cristiano, at 9:30am. Cristiano guided us on a walk through the Santa Virgina forest. We learned about the Mamaca da Serra tree that produced beautiful white and purple flowers. This is a fairly common species in the area and is an example of a pioneer plant in the region’s successional forest. Most of the forest around the station is considered secondary (i.e. regrowth after disturbance). Christiano also pointed out that there were galls on the leaves of the Mamaca da Serra tree. This is an immune response that the tree produces when certain insects deposit eggs on the leaves.

Cristiano led us down to the Paraguana River, which runs by the back of the field station. This river is the main source of water for Rio de Janeiro state. Interestingly, this river has no significant sources of pollution and is the cleanest in the state. Near the river was an example of the Jaborandi plant, which is often used by local community members to treat kidney stones (& also bad hair via jaborandi-infused shampoo) when the leaves are boiled as a tea. As we continued our walk through the secondary forest, the canopy began to close in, leaf litter thickened along the path, and there were more epiphytes and vines hanging from the trees. In this more mature forest, we found a number of small (~1 cm in length) pumpkin toadlets. They were bright orange and found among the leaf litter on either side of the trail. We also found a juvenile venomous pit viper, which we made sure to treat with due respect.

We spent the afternoon around the field station at Santa Virgina catching up on sleep and assignments while doing some casual birding. Parakeets and rufous collard sparrows were among the most common species sighted. Hayden and Riley presented their respective seminars on coevolution and latitudinal gradients. Amelie also presented her species account on the Proceratophrys appendiculata (horn-leafed frog) which was found on yesterday’s night hike. To celebrate the end of the day and the end of our first full week in Brazil, we had a barbeque with a variety of local vegetables and meats. What a great way to cap off a lovely and fascinating day!