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The Environment of the Central American Cold-Blooded Vertebrate Fauna

L. C. Stuart
Copeia
Vol. 1966, No. 4 (Dec. 23, 1966), pp. 684-699
DOI: 10.2307/1441402
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1441402
Page Count: 16
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The Environment of the Central American Cold-Blooded Vertebrate Fauna
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Abstract

Biological Central America includes political Central America, the lowlands of southern México, and northwestern Colombia (Chocó). Ninety per cent of the region lies north of the Nicaraguan Depression, and only 25% of the area rises above the 600-m contour. Owing to the Pacific position of the continental divide most of the lowlands lie on the Caribbean versant, and the major drainage basins are so located. Pliocene uplift, erosion, and Tertiary and Quaternary volcanism are responsible for the high relief of the highlands, which are discontinuous above about 1,500-2,000 m. Temperature is largely a function of altitude, and annual range is slight. The Caribbean versant receives 2-3 times as much rainfall as do the Pacific lowlands and the highlands. The low sun period is the dry season, and the rainfall displays a double maximum with peaks during the early and late portions of the high sun period. Rainfall varies from less than 500 mm annually to more than 7,000 mm. As a generalization rainforest clothes the lowlands of the Caribbean versant and dry forests the Pacific. The northern highlands support a cover of oak-pine up to about 3,000 m above which are pine-fir forests and meadows. In the south, wet forests are characteristic of the highlands with patches of páramo above 3,100 m. Protected valleys support savannas and scrub forests. In the north Nuclear Central America has remained positive since the Cretaceous. To the south between southern Nicaragua and Colombia open, island-studded seaways persisted, with the possible exception of the Paleocene interval, up to the Pliocene.

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