mithsonian Tropical R. I.


July, 2004

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Entrance to Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Entrance to Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

On Thursday and Friday last we spent the whole of each day attending a symposium at the Smithsonian Institute for Tropical Research here in Panama City. The Institute is American-funded and has people on staff that do all kinds of research related to the tropics, but mostly botanical, biological and zoological research with a bit of paleontology thrown in. There are also always lots of visiting researchers from all over the world. Some are doing research for their doctorates, other are working on post-doctoral research, and others are professors at foreign (i.e. not Panamanian) universities and research institutes. The idea of the symposium was for staff members and visitors alike to describe the work they are doing so that everyone can know what's going on and perhaps find ways to cooperate on either current work or get ideas for new work.

We found out about it by accident, asked if we could come, and they said yes. We didn't understand all of the technical details of course, but enough to understand some really neat things. One woman showed a short video of a snake attacking a clutch of frog's eggs attached to a leaf. As soon as the snake had taken a bite out of the clutch, the remaining eggs in the clutch started to hatch and drop off into the water to get away. The presenter thinks that the eggs feel the vibration, know that it means something bad, and so decide (frog embryos deciding!) to hatch. Funny thing is other types of vibration don't cause the eggs to hatch, such as heavy tropical rain. The other amazing thing was how many fantastic photos of animals we saw during those two days. Lots of frogs, lots of monkeys, and lots and lots of butterflies. We're always looking out for interesting things like this to do so we were very happy to find it -- especially 'cos we got a free dinner after the talks every day!


July 12, 2004