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EcoPics #1: It’s dark in here

By Shinichi Asao, Julie Kray, and Andrew Tredennick

Every picture tells a story, but often there’s more to the story than meets the eye.  So, we present EcoPics!  In this series, we will post a picture and tell the story behind each one.  Here is the first of the series.  (Let us know what you think in the comments or on our facebook account.)

This is a picture of a Pentaclethra forest at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica.  Pentaclethra is the most abundant tree at La Selva, and unlike other tree species Pentaclethra sometimes forms a dense stand.  When it does, Pentaclethra leaves overlap each other much more than in any other stand, shading out a lot of light and thus most of the understory plants.  It also prefers wet places, so a Pentaclethra stand often is creepy dark with pools of standing water, yet feels weirdly open, like this one.  Amazingly though, Pentaclethra leaves fold up at the end of the day to let light shine in.  If all of a sudden it gets lighter in a Pentaclethra stand, you should get out in a hurry because you have about 30 minutes of sunlight left.  Or be able to echolocate like the bats do.  Having a flashlight works too.