Islands in the Sky
In the rainforest of Venezuela and Brazil rise high mesas called “tepui,” where many unique creatures are found. These creatures were thought to evolve in isolation, perhaps including many “ancient” forms. They are found atop the unique table-like tepuis that rise above the clouds.
The tepui ecosystems may have influenced Avatar as well as Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. It’s hard to get up there and find out–the only way is to climb.
But the tepui ecology is in fact more complex than was thought. Unique creatures, such as the pebble toad, may be more recent arrivals that evolved in a recent new direction, more like the arrivals in the Galapagos islands. Like islands, each tepui may host unique species found nowhere else.
Sometimes we think that only “native” evolved species are worth study. But every native species had to get there from somewhere. We are all travelers, and visitors to new lands. The journey is what makes us interesting.