Puerto López: The Blue-Footed Booby

Isla de la Plata: The Blue-Footed Booby 

Miami, Florida

USA

October 1, 2013 

Jan: So, you’re going to Ecuador for three weeks.  You’re also planning a trip to The Galápagos Islands?

Jan: Yes, I’m doing my research and making a few calls.  In fact I have cruise recommendations and the travel agent has been most helpful.

Jan: So, when are you going?  

Jan:  After considering all the factors, I decided not to go to the Galápagos.

Jan:  What? And you call yourself a traveler?  What will your friends think?

Jan:  My friends will understand.   They know I am a “road less traveled” kind of guy.  Besides, the trip is quite expensive for a single traveler.   Have you ever heard of the Single Supplement?

Jan:  That’s a lot of BS and you know it.   You can afford the cruise!  Have you ever noticed that there is no luggage rack on a hearse?

Jan: Yes, I noticed.  Instead of spending time at the Galápagos, I decided to concentrate on mainland Ecuador.   There is so much to see.  Ecuador has it all:  the Amazon, the Andes, indigenous culture, the fertile Lowlands and the Pacific Coast.

Jan: How can you miss the area of such scientific importance?    You’re read “The Origin of Species,” haven’t you?

Jan:  I am embarrassed to say that I haven’t.   But I know a bit about Darwin’s revolutionary work.    I also know that after his return to England, it took him many many years to begin his writings.   And he began only because Alfred Russel Wallace was breathing down his neck.

Jan:   Who is Alfred Russel Wallace?

Jan:   Unfortunately, Wallace is not widely known.   He was another important Nineteenth Century biologist who worked in South America and Southeast Asia.   He corresponded with Darwin. When Darwin read Wallace’s unpublished work, he realized that his fellow biologist had almost completely replicated his own work.   Darwin rushed to publication and the rest is history. 

Wallace is remembered for the “Wallace Line,” a demarcation in the seas of Indonesia demonstrating two distinct zones of evolution.

In fact, this area of Indonesia has been on my “To See” list for a long time.

Jan:  Ha! So that means you will also visit the city of Darwin in Australia?

Jan:  G-d willing I will see them both.  In the meantime, I decided to drive from Machala to Puerto López, a small fishing village on the Pacific Coast.   There I will take a day trip to the Isla de la Plata, known as the “poor man’s Galápagos.”  

Jan:  You sure about this?   The Galápagos tortoise lives for 150 years.  How many years do you have?

Jan:   Yes, I am sure.  Anyway, Insha’Allah, I will return to Miami two years from now.   That should give me ample time to read Darwin’s work and to plan a proper trip. 

And who knows?  Given enough time and the processes of random natural selection and biological imperatives, my one-celled Single status may evolve into a new, binary-celled more complex Species!

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Puerto López

Isla de la Plata

Ecuador

October 23, 2013

My Dear Birder Friends,

“Why does the Blue-Footed Booby have blue feet?

By now you know that your friend Jan is not afraid to ask the difficult question.  So here on the hilltop of this remote island in the Pacific, more than an hour’s motorboat ride from the coast, I ask the guide (in Spanish) what is surely an obvious question, “¿Por qué el piquero de patas azules tienen patas azules?”

The guide answers in distinct and totally comprehensible Spanish (I’ll translate):

Sardines are the exclusive diet of the Blue-footed Booby.   When the Booby dives deep into the sea and flaps his or her feet, the sardines are attracted to the blue color and the Booby has lunch.

More importantly, the sardines in this region have a blue pigment in their cells. So after lunch, the blue pigment of the sardines becomes concentrated in the feet of the Booby.  After a period of time, the blue deepens in color.   The female of the species is attracted to the dark blue of the male’s feet because it indicates he is a good fisherman.

Now the Blue-footed Booby dives into the ocean to fish with his eyes open.  Eventually his eyesight deteriorates from exposure to the salt water as his feet become even more blue.  The female notices the deep blue color and surmises that the older male’s eyesight is less keen and therefore is a less efficient hunter and will be a poor provider of food for her chicks. 

So when the blue feet of the male Blue-footed Booby become dark blue, he is, well, shall we say, “out of luck.”

So, Charles Darwin, revolutionary naturalist, biologist and writer, and can you top that?

Feet still flapping and still lucky on occasion,

Your friend,

Jan

 

 

 

 

 

 

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