American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) scientists Ana Porzecanski and Angelo Soto-Centeno present the findings of their recent expedition to Cuba and the new avenues for scientific collaboration on the island.
Here is an excerpt from the video:
All right, so the first question and what I really wanted to start with is why Cuba. Why were we interested in going to Cuba? And without question a lot of eyes on Cuba right now, and it is an island nation that had an outsized role in world history and politics. It is also interesting to many because of its old cars, its big cigars, beautiful architecture, amazing music, dancing on the streets. This is the Cuba perhaps that many people expect; the kind of postcard view of Cuba.
We were interested in Cuba because of its biodiversity. And perhaps want to show you some of the Cuba you may not expect today. A Cuba that has incredible landscapes, starting with amazing mountains, which some people don’t expect in the Caribbean like Pico Turquino, the highest point in the eastern side of the island. Incredible ecosystems on land like the limestone mogotes formations of Vinales Valley and other rock formations in Guantanamo. Incredible ecosystems on the coasts, wonderful wetlands, mangroves, amazing Zapata Swamp where many, many birds migrate to and, of course, incredible ecosystems underwater and also underground because Cuba is full of caves. Really amazing caves, I think. Angelo will definitely be speaking more about that.
It’s area, at 42,000 square miles or so, about the size of Tennessee. This is a pretty large island. And so we have this incredible diversity of landscapes. Also because it has had this amazingly dynamic geologic history. We can’t go into it today. It’s fascinating.
More than 4,000 islands and keys is what composes the Cuban archipelago. And this incredible diversity of geology and ecosystems and landscapes created over time—gave rise to this unique biodiversity in Cuba, especially remarkable were some of its giant animals that lived there 30 to—1 million to 10,000 years ago. For example, the Cuban ground sloth, which was fairly large and was the size of a bear or even bigger.
— Ana Porzecanski