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因祸得福的哥伦比亚原始丛林

更新时间:2018-8-5 11:01:23 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The quest to explore Colombia's untouched jungles
因祸得福的哥伦比亚原始丛林

With a TV-dish-shaped object sticking out back, and a rifle hanging over his shoulder, Glenn Seeholzer looks fantastically out of place in the middle of the jungle. He is chasing an elusive bird of early morning habits and a shrill whistle. So far, he hasn’t found it.

身背电视碟形接收器,肩上扛着步枪,塞霍尔泽(Glenn Seeholzer)一身装扮在热带丛林中显得是如此的突兀。他正在追踪一种神奇的鸟类,观察它们清晨的习性并捕捉它们尖声的鸣叫——但暂时还没找到。

He has spent the last two weeks prying the forests near Medina, a small town near the Chingaza National Park, in central Colombia. With 59 other researchers, he is part of the Colombia Bio expedition, a two-week expedition with the mission of trying to understand its biodiversity.

半个月来他一直在哥伦比亚中部小城梅迪纳附近的森林里探险,这个小镇离青加扎国家公园(Chingaza National Park)不远。他和另外59名研究人员一同参加了"生态哥伦比亚"探险活动,历时两个星期,旨在研究哥伦比亚生物的多样性。

Seeholzer, a postdoctoral fellow at the American Museum of National History in New York, and a collaborator at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute in Colombia, wants to record the song of a dusky-capped flycatcher (Myiarchus tuberculifer), and then hunt down the same bird he recorded. It is a mission that should answer questions about one of evolutionary science’s great mysteries: what leads to the formation of new species?

塞霍尔泽在纽约美国自然历史博物馆(American Museum of National History)做博士后,还在哥伦比亚的亚历山大•冯•洪堡研究所(Alexander von Humboldt Institute)担任合作研究员。他想录下一种名为暗顶蝇霸鹟的鸟的叫声,再计划捕捉到这种鸟。此任务是要试图解答物种进化的一大谜题:是什么原因导致新物种的出现。

He wakes before sunrise, puts on his hiking shoes, and heads uphill to the forest at a frantic step. He only has 30 minutes to catch it: this bird sings its ‘dawn song’, its most distinctive call, in the small window between the end of the night and the beginning of the day.

塞霍尔泽天还没亮就起身,穿上登山鞋急匆匆地赶往山上的森林。他只有30分钟的时间捕捉暗顶蝇霸鹟的鸣叫,这种鸟只在黑夜与白天交替的短暂档口唱响它那首与众不同的"黎明之歌"。

As if someone pushes a switch inside of him, he goes into stealth mode when he heard the bird for the first time. He starts to follow the whistle without making any noise, walking and breathing as silently as he can. The low bushes, muddy patches, and sharp stones of the forest make it difficult; his deaf right ear makes it even worse.

一听到暗顶蝇霸鹟的声音,塞霍尔泽好像有人按下他体内的一个机关,整个人立即静了下来。他轻手轻足地跟随着鸟叫声,屏息静气,不敢发出任何声音。森林里低矮的灌木和一个个泥坑,还有硌脚的石头让他的追踪很困难,他失聪的右耳更是难上加难。

The bird whistles again, and Glen aims his antenna at it. It is a parabolic microphone that can isolate a bird’s whistle from the noise of the forest. Then he waits for it to sing one more time – but it moves. If it stood still, he would try to put a sand-grain-sized bullet somewhere in his chest.

鸟儿又叫了起来,塞霍尔泽将天线对准了鸟叫声,这种抛物线状的麦克风能将鸟鸣声与森林里的其他噪音分隔开来。他等着鸟儿再发出鸣叫,但鸟儿飞走了,如果没走,塞霍尔泽就要开枪,将沙粒大小的子弹射向鸟儿的胸脯。

A couple of years ago, walking around this forest at dawn with a rifle and an odd backpack would have been suicidal. The guerrillas from Colombia’s left-wing revolutionary army Farc wouldn’t have cared if you were doing it in the name of science.

两年前,大清早背着步枪和古怪的背包走在这片森林中就是送死。哥伦比亚左派革命武装力量的游击队可不管你是不是在做科学研究。

The war

哥伦比亚内战

“I used to advise my students to remember that Shakira song Ciega, Sordomuda,” Jhon Cesar Neita says one night. It was a survival rule of thumb: the song’s title translates as ‘blind, deaf-mute’.

"我曾让学生们记住哥伦比亚歌手夏奇拉(Shakira)那首《盲人,聋哑人》,装聋作哑可是条能救命的经验法则。"

Neita is a veteran entomologist who had to learn how to deal with the Colombian conflict to do his field work. He studies coprophagous beetles, those who eat other animals’ faeces. Chasing them in the thick forests of the Colombian Pacific region often meant meeting guerrillas or paramilitaries face-to-face.

说这话的是资深昆虫学家内塔(Jhon Cesar Neita),他早已练就了在哥伦比亚军事冲突中进行野外研究的本领。他的研究对象是屎壳郎,一种会吃其他动物粪便的甲虫。在哥伦比亚沿太平洋地区的茂密森林中追踪屎壳郎经常能碰上游击队或者亲政府的右翼准军事部队民兵。

This is a familiar story among Colombian biologists. For decades, asking for permission from the area’s ruling army was standard procedure for planning a field trip. Sticking to their often-changing orders, making room for a guerrilla or paramilitary soldier in the research team, and avoiding the zones where they didn't want an indiscreet eye were all matters of life or death.

与游击队或民兵打交道在哥伦比亚生物学家中是常见之事。几十年来,他们的野外研究都要获得控制该区政府军的许可,要遵守军队不时更改的命令,还得让一位游击队员或者民兵同行,以及需避开交战双方都不想受到外人窥视的区域等等,以上种种都是生死攸关的事情。

If the local commander said the trip was over, they all had to pack and leave before dusk. If the chief had questions to ask, the team was held hostage until they were answered, sometimes for several days. If he didn’t like the answers, someone was murdered.

如果当地政府军指挥官下令研究结束,所有人就都得收拾行囊在天黑前撤离。如果长官有问题要问,整个研究队伍就得留下做人质,有时一待就好几天。要是长官对回答不满意,就会有人送命。

When the Farc guerrillas signed a peace agreement with the Colombian government in 2016, the violence in many rural zones fell significantly. The end of the war not only meant a long-awaited reprieve for millions of people who live in remote areas of the country, but meant biologists and other researchers could now explore the country’s forests, rivers, and mountain zones.

2016年,哥伦比亚左派革命武装力量游击队同政府签订了和平协议,在许多乡村地方暴力事件显著减少。停战不仅给几百万居住在哥伦比亚偏远地方的民众带来了梦寐以求的安宁,生物学家和其他研究人员也得以探索该国的森林旷野和山川河流。

They jumped at the opportunity. Colombia is regarded as the second-most-biodiverse country in the world, but its fauna and flora have evaded study because of the war. The government has now started the Colombia Bio programme which will fund 20 expeditions to remote zones where fighting has limited research.

他们立即把握机会。哥伦比亚生物的丰富多样性在全球高居第二位,但战争阻碍了该国动植物的研究。政府目前展开了"生态哥伦比亚"项目,资助研究人员到被战争耽误了研究的偏远地区进行总共20个探险活动。

The primary goal of these expeditions is to make sense of Colombian biodiversity. But there is also the question of what can be done with it. “Biodiversity is the answer for many needs. Most medicines come from biodiversity. It is used in food, health, and cosmetics," says Hernando Garcia, deputy director of the Humboldt Institute. The Colombian government wants these expeditions to be the first step in creating new businesses based on the country’s plant and animal resources, from bird watching to pharmaceutical research.

探险活动的主要目的是认识哥伦比亚的生物多样性,但也会研究如何利用。洪堡研究所副所长加西亚(Hernando Garcia)表示:"生物多样性能解决许多问题,大部分药物都有赖于相关研究,食物、健康还有化妆品领域也会用到。"哥伦比亚政府希望由这些探险活动开始,利用本国动植物资源创造商机,譬如鸟类观测以及药物研究之类。

In them, researchers go deep inside a remote area to obtain plant and animal samples, often by walking for hours in harsh environments. All this information will feed the Colombian Biological Information System, and many of the preserved bodies and organs will end up in the Humboldt institute’s collection, where they will be available for other researchers in the future.

研究人员深入偏远地区采集动植物样本,常常要在恶劣环境下徒步几个钟头。收集的信息将收入哥伦比亚生物信息系统(Colombian Biological Information System),许多动植物以及器官标本则会存放在洪堡研究所,供其他研究人员日后之用。

Medina and the Chingaza Natural Park used to be strongholds for Farc guerrillas. In 2002, they blew up a dam there, a part of the system that provides water to the capital Bogota. They hid their hostages in the middle of the forest, and the traces of their encampments remain. Not far from where the researchers have been sleeping, there is an abandoned lodge that used to be a Farc camp.

小城梅迪纳和青加扎国家公园一带曾是哥伦比亚左派革命武装力量游击队的据点。2002年,游击队炸毁了这里向首都波哥大供水的大坝,还把人质藏匿在森林深处,现在还能看到游击队扎营的痕迹。研究人员大本营的不远处,有间废弃的小屋就曾是游击队的营地。

It is an interesting place for biologists to explore. “Three worlds clash there: the prairies from the Orinoco river, the Andean forest, and some Amazonian elements,” explains Andres Cuervo, a senior biologist at the Humboldt Institute. The last expedition to the area was in 1997, and it didn't really get a lot of information.

这里是生物学家探险的乐土。洪堡研究所高级生物学家库尔沃(Andres Cuervo)说:"这里有奥里诺科河域的草原,安第斯山脉的森林,还有亚马逊河的影响,是三个世界汇集冲撞之地。"上一次在此地的探险还是在1997年,收获也不大。

Getting there is hard. You have to take a small bus from Bogota to Medina. Then you have to hire a car that will get you to a small village next to the mountains. You have to walk from there, but the equipment and food must travel in pack mules. It is a one-hour uphill walk to the first campsite. The second is two and a half hours away, through a path covered by thick forest and as steep as a flight of stairs.

抵达此处非常艰难。得先从波哥大搭小巴到梅迪纳,再雇辆车去山脚下的小村庄,之后就靠走路,而装备和食物得让骡子背上去。山路陡峭,茂林密布,要走1小时的上坡路才到第一个营地,第二个得两个半小时。

No wonder the guerrillas wanted to control the zone. It is the perfect place to hide.

山深林密路险,怪不得游击队想要控制这个地区,这是他们绝妙的藏身之地。

From the forest to the lab

从森林到实验室

Did war shelter Colombian nature from destruction? It is hard to know. Guerrillas and paramilitaries may have helped isolate forests from deforestation and exploitation, but “there were a lot of brutal environmental impacts”, says García. The destruction of oil pipes contaminated bodies of water in many parts of the country, and landmines or bombs could have killed big mammals, like bears or jaguars. So far, the effect of the conflict on the local ecosystem is largely unknown.

战争是否使哥伦比亚的自然生态免遭破坏?不好说。游击队和民兵双方的控制也许令森林免于砍伐开发,但加西亚说也"对环境造成了许多恶劣影响"。破坏石油管道污染了国内许多河流,地雷和炸弹也炸死了熊和美洲豹一类的大型哺乳动物。目前为止,军事冲突对哥伦比亚生态系统的影响有多大还不得而知。

That is why Andrés Acosta was so happy to have found this little goldish frog, a Rhaebo glaberrimus. “They only breed in water bodies that meet certain conditions, and need well-preserved habitats, like tropical rainforests,” he says, holding it in his hands. Finding it is a good clue that this forest is in good shape.

所以阿科斯塔(Andrés Acosta)对发现金背蟾蜍(一种金色的小型青蛙)万分欣喜,他手里捧着一只说:"金背蟾蜍只在某类型的水域中繁殖,需要热带雨林这种保留完好的栖息地。"能找到这种青蛙说明这片森林生态还不错。

Acosta and his team go out in the evenings, as the forest becomes louder and darker. With no other light source than their headlamps, they move mostly by ear through narrow patches of mud and slippery stone. They stop whenever they sense a croak – a piping sound, hard to distinguish from a cricket’s chirp. Suddenly, someone snatches a frog from a leaf and puts it in a white cotton bag. They do this dozens of times through the night. It always looks like a magic trick; frogs seem to come out of nowhere.

阿科斯塔和他的团队在夜晚出动,此时森林虫鸣蛙叫,声音嘈杂,天色已暗,头灯是唯一的照明工具。他们主要靠用耳朵在布满泥坑和湿滑石头的森林里摸索着探路。听到蛙鸣声就停下来——这种青蛙叫声像是曲曲笛声,很难与蟋蟀叫声相区别。突然,有研究人员猛地从树叶上捉起一只青蛙,放进白色布袋里。整个晚上能抓几十只,就跟变魔术似的,都不知道青蛙是从哪儿来的。

The next morning, Erick Higuita and Mariana Cruz are walking through the same forest. They are looking for the for the orange cloth stripes that signal where the mousetraps are. They left them next to big trees, where rodents were likely to forage the fruit that fell off. The bait is a sticky mix of banana, peanut butter, vanilla and honey. “The sweet scent attracts rodents”, says Cruz. Indeed, it smells like a bakery.

第二天早上,伊基塔(Erick Higuita)和科鲁兹(Mariana Cruz)再走入这片森林,他们要找标记了捕鼠器位置的橙色布条。他们把捕鼠器放在大树附近,啮齿类动物可能会去树下吃掉落的水果。黏糊糊的诱饵是用香蕉、花生酱、香草和蜂蜜混合而成。科鲁兹说甜甜的香味能引来目标,的确,这里闻起来有面包店的香味。

It is not a productive day: they only catch a dark grey rat that seems to belong more to a city sewer than to a forest. Higuita starts to work on it. First, he takes out its insides and cleans the fur thoroughly: if he leaves just a piece of tissue, ants would feast on the body. Then, he fills it with cotton, and straightens its paws with a wire, taking care to leave them intact – "the foot pads are useful for identifying the animal”, he explains. Four hours later, the mouse is drying in the sun. It is now a stuffed animal, getting ready for rigid immortality behind museum glass.

这天收获不多,只抓到一只深灰色老鼠。这只老鼠不像森林老鼠更像城市下水道里的耗子。伊基塔开始处理老鼠,首先将内脏掏出来,然后彻底清理皮毛,半点肉质残留也会引来蚂蚁。然后用棉花填充空腹,并小心翼翼用铁丝把爪子拉直, 不能有丝毫损伤,因为脚掌对识别动物非常重要。之后在太阳下晒4个小时进行脱水,就成了动物标本,可以摆在博物馆里不会腐烂。

In the next table, Acosta is getting ready to do his own work. He starts by putting the frogs, one by one, inside a photo lightbox. Then, he takes some notes and shoots some pictures. Once all have been photographed, he pours some anaesthetic onto a cotton tip and rubs a frog with it. It dies in less than a minute, without any pain. Its body becomes flabby, its skin shiny.

隔壁桌子上,阿科斯塔也在做准备工作。他先把青蛙一只只放进拍照用的灯箱,做些笔记照几张相,拍摄完之后用布蘸点麻药擦拭青蛙,不到1分钟,青蛙就无痛而终,其肢体已松弛,但皮肤还很光亮。

A grey-haired man who has been in the business of frog-catching since his childhood, Acosta knows all the little tricks. He can spot the species of a frog as fast as a mother can tell the names of her kids. He writes with an old fountain pen because their ink doesn't slip if the notebook falls into a river. He brings his own tools, alcohol, and formaldehyde, because "you never know what someone else buys". He prepares and kills his frogs in the same order he caught them, because he has "to keep the ‘chain of custody', so to speak".

阿科斯塔从孩提时代就开始抓青蛙,现已满头银发。关于青蛙他无所不知,见到任何青蛙他都能立即说出其品种,就跟妈妈叫自家孩子似的熟悉。他采用旧式的钢笔做记录,这样笔记本掉进河里也不会洗掉字迹。他自己带着工具、酒精还有甲醛,因为"不知道别人买的什么样"。他会按照捕作到青蛙的顺序将它们依次安乐死,因为这样能够"有序监管"。

The final step is putting a needle over the flame of a burner until it burns red, piercing the frog with it, extracting some sticky tissue and putting it inside a steamy container filled with liquid nitrogen: its DNA is going to be scanned.

最后一步是用烧红的针扎进青蛙身体,提取出粘稠的组织,放入注有液态氮的容器里,以备检验青蛙的DNA。

Scanning DNA is necessary because it helps us understand diversity at a deep level. Two seemingly different specimens may have very similar genes, or there could be substantial differences between two examples that look alike. “The genetic diversity is hidden and less explored, but offer crucial insight for understanding diversity, species distribution, and evolution”, says Maylin Gonzalez, a genetics researcher at the Humboldt Institute.

检验DNA对深入了解生物多样性是必不可少。两个看起来完全不同的物种可能基因非常相似,看着很像的也可能基因排列大相径庭。洪堡研究所的基因研究员冈萨雷斯(Maylin Gonzalez)说:"基因多样性还不为人知,研究甚少,但基因为了解生物多样性、物种分布以及物种进化提供了重要思路。"

Each of the 55 species of crickets, 70 species of butterflies, 200 plants, 200 species of birds, 25 species of amphibia and reptiles, and 21 species of mammals found will have its DNA coded. The samples obtained here will feed a worldwide database of DNA barcodes, one which aims to become the largest biodiversity register ever built.

这次探险总共收获了55只蟋蟀、70只蝴蝶、200株植物、200只鸟、25只两栖类和爬行类动物,还有21只哺乳动物,它们的DNA都会被记录在案,信息将存入全球DNA条形码资料库。这个资料库目标是收集到全球最多的生物基因资料。

DNA can tell how healthy the population of any animal is, and how vulnerable they are to potential disease. It is also a living record of a species' history, and hence, of a zone's level of conservation. It is the ultimate judge of biologists' work: it can reveal if a specimen is what it was once identified to be.

DNA能告诉我们这种动物种类的健康程度,及对某类疾病的抵抗力如何。DNA 也是物种进化史的活资料,对动物保护意义非凡。DNA能说明某个标本是否属于原先被认定的物种,从而最终对生物学家们的工作成绩做出评判。

DNA is also the reason why Seeholzer is chasing this elusive bird.

DNA也是塞霍尔泽追寻暗顶蝇霸鹟的原因。

Something happened on the flycatcher’s yearly trip. The Peruvian part of the Andes was too high for them to fly over, so they split. Half of the flock went east of the mountains, half went west. They would meet again later; but after years doing the same thing, one day the groups couldn’t breed with each other.

暗顶蝇霸鹟年年迁徙,但秘鲁境内的安第斯山脉太高飞不过去,于是兵分两路,一路从东边绕过安第斯山,一路从西边绕过。然后两群鸟再汇合,但很多年的分路飞行后两路暗顶蝇霸鹟之间已无法相互交配繁殖了。

By most standards, they became separate species. But it is more complicated than that. "They seem like two distinct species, but at the same time, they are one species. That is a ring species,” he explains.

按许多标准来看这两群鸟已成了两个物种,但其实比这还复杂。塞霍尔泽说:"看着像是两个不同物种,但其实又是一个,是同一个环物种(据维基百科,这是指一个物种因湖泊、山岳、峡谷等地理区隔因素沿着该区隔繁衍产生多个亚种,各相邻亚种之间有连续性的基因变化,但首尾两个亚种虽然也相邻却因差异太大而不进行杂交繁殖)。"

He aims to study the speciation process as it happens. His research is about whether or not the song has a role in it. “To do that, it is really important to have genetic samples that are connected to song samples, and the only way to do that is to record the bird and then collect it, so you have the connection between the song, the plumage and the genetics.” He has a lot of specimens and a lot of recordings, but he still has not found a one-to-one correspondence between the two.

塞霍尔泽想搞清楚暗顶蝇霸鹟这个物种一分为二的变化过程。他现研究这个鸟类吟唱的"黎明之歌"在物种形成过程中有没有作用。"要想研究就得有唱歌鸟儿的基因样本,唯一的办法就是先录下鸟叫声再捕获这只鸟,这样才能将歌曲、羽毛还有基因整合起来。"塞霍尔泽已经收集了许多标本和录音,但至今还没有将某只鸟及其叫声一起收集到。

After his hunt, he spends the rest of the day helping other ornithologists with their collections, or just exploring the forest. Even when the hard work begins to take a toll on most other researchers, he still has the energy to go and climb an old tree with a local guide. “I spent many months locked down in an office in New York,” he says.

早上的捕鸟工作结束后,塞霍尔泽会用余下的时间帮其他鸟类学家处理样本,或是在森林里探险。别的研究人员大多被辛苦的工作搞得精疲力竭,他还有精力跟着当地向导爬上森林里一棵古树。他说,"纽约的办公室把我困住好几个月了。"

A lot of paperwork is overdue when he gets back. Moving biological material between countries is a long process. He has to wait for some DNA results that could take a year. There are papers to write, meetings to attend, bureaucracy to go through. In the camp, other scientists half-jokingly suggest he to go back to Colombia and do his research there. He replies, half-jokingly, that he just might.

等他回去还要补上许多文书工作,在国家之间运输生物标本耗时很长。还得等待DNA结果,有些需要一年时间。还要写论文、参加会议,以及一大堆的繁文缛节。营地里其他科学家半开玩笑地建议他留在哥伦比亚继续研究,他也半开玩笑地说还真有可能。

The final day, as he hiked back to the real world, he had an epiphany, he says. He will go to the forest more often. It will be a more exciting and productive life, one with less office and more nature. He’ll move to Colombia in a few months, he says from his NY office. “The time in the camp feels so short.” And he still has a flycatcher to find.

塞霍尔泽说,探险结束回到现实世界那天,他有了一个顿悟,他要多去森林。森林的生活更加刺激,收获更多,少点办公室多点大自然。在纽约的办公室里,他表示打算几个月后会回到哥伦比亚,"在营地的时间感觉过得很快" 。而且他还得去捕捉暗顶蝇霸鹟呢。

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