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  • James Boccone

Fossils in the Jungle

Where most flesh will fade,

Their stone temples will remain;

Their limestone fossils.

Although they cover only 2 percent of Earth's surface, rainforests contain an estimated 50 percent of all terrestrial life. In the Amazon alone there are 13 hundred bird species, 427 mammal species, and 2.5 million insect species. Rainforests have existed for about 300 million years, meaning the number of species that have come and gone within them is uncountable. Even more tragic is that we will never even know how much we’ve missed. Fossils form when sediment entombs hard remains before they can decompose. In a rainforest climate, the hot, humid air and moist soil teeming with bugs and bacteria and mycelium means that dead things disappear fast. All those beautiful and colorful and unusual creatures are lost forever. Although tragic, it's almost beautiful; the idea that there are things we will never know, adding to the already incomprehensibly large mysteriousness of the universe.

But there is one animal that leaves fossils in the jungle: us. The civilizations of Mesoamerica are remembered despite their flesh being long gone. The Maya, for example, are remembered for various things. Remembered for advances in astronomy, for their reverence towards mushrooms spiritually and religiously, and for their sudden and still unexplained end. But yet, they are remembered. Their fossils stand tall for us to see; their calcified remains. Why do we remember them? Out of all the trillions of creatures, why do we get to remember only them? Why couldn’t the ancient bees of the jungle create hives for us to find? Why couldn’t the birds of thousands of years ago build nests for us to find? Maybe it's because we speak human, not bird. Birds don't care about being found, we do. Maybe that's what sets us apart from the rest of life, or maybe that's just my myopic, human idea of success.


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