Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Animals of the Atacama

For the LINCOLN LIONSToday Liz, Rick, and Justin drove up into the Andean Mountains to study the Salar de Huasco. At the highest point we were 13,828 ft (4214 meters) above sea level. DeKalb, IL is about is about 880 ft above sea level, so we were really high in the mountains. At this altitude there are more animals than in other parts of the Atacama Desert.

We saw lots of interesting animals. 

Domesticated llamas graze on the grass near the water. Notice the ribbon around this llama's neck. The farmers do this so they can tell which llamas are theirs. Llamas are used as pack animals by Andean cultures and llama wool is used to make sweaters and other cloths. 

Also in this area is kind of wild llama (or alpaca) called a vicuña. The vicuña are endangered and only live at high elevations in the Andean Mountains of Chile, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina.

We saw two kinds of interesting birds. Rhea are a large bird, like an emu or an ostrich, that cannot fly. How about the pink birds in the background? Do you know what those are?

Those are flamingos! Wild flamingos live in many of the high elevation lakes in the Andean Mountains. Here is a closer look at some of the ones we saw today.

Although this picture is not an animal, we where really excited to see this, too. This is a Llareta. It is a kind of plant that that grows on rocks and only lives at elevations above 10,000 ft in the Andean Mountains.

This last picture is of the Salar de Huasco. We are going back to this area tomorrow and will talk more about our research here in our next post. 

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