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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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After the rain, we spend most of the night in relative comfort. The impressions of such a wilderness produce in the European traveler previously unknown sensations.

Elater noctilucus

In all the splendor of their brilliance, fireflies appeared (Elater phosphorus and Elater noctilucus, Fabr.), which moved in swarms here and there, especially after it stopped raining. These insects may increase or decrease their phosphorescent light, which flickers from two yellow spots on their chest; sometimes they glow bright red, sometimes they cast a pale moonlight. They keep their glow when pinned for five to eight days until they die. By the opening of the yellow dot, Dr. Spix was convinced that the phosphorescence emanates from a thorax sachet, filled with a sebaceous substance, similar to melted phosphorus, and over which branches of the trachea spread. The most probable thing is that the animal, through the trachea, controlling the drafts, can at its pleasure intensify or weaken that light. It was demonstrated by the examination of Dr. Spix that this organ of phosphorescence has nothing to do with the organs of reproduction.

Another evnt, which occurred there in the woods, and which once again caught

Tettigonia, the cicada

our attention, was the piercing hiss of a large cicada (Tettigonia tibicen, Fabr.), whose sounds can be compared to those of Nuremberg's wind-up toys. They do not come from the friction of the wings, but from a dilation and contraction of strong muscle bundles of the characteristic drum apparatus located in the insect's abdomen.

At daybreak we noticed that thick fog hung in the woods, and then we were most struck by the fumes that developed from the decomposition of plant matter, unpleasant to smell. These mystical effluvia are of a very particular smell, and soon produced an evil influence upon fellow travelers, unaccustomed to them: namely, Mr. Schluter and our white servant. They were both stricken with violent chills, and a fever developed in them, which did not leave them throughout the trip. Such cases of fever are especially frequent in this stretch of coastal forest, but they do not take on such malignant character as the fevers in the interior of the country. Wet and exhausted, we continued our journey, through equally dense and inhospitable jungles, over hills, streams, and rotting trees lying on the ground,

Etching 56

until near noon, when at last the Indians recognized some paths in the woods that would pass us by unnoticed, because the cicadas were more interested by the mutilation of trees and shrubs than by the ground without weeds. Then we finally came to a wide road, partly very clean, and we knew it was called the Minas Road or Rio Pardo Road a few years ago

Rio Pardo Road to Minas Gerais

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