Culture and Natural History in Cuba

Culture and Natural History in Cuba

>>ANA LUZ PORZECANSKI: Islands are generally a good place to study biodiversity and evolution. In a way, they’re like natural experiments. They have sharp boundaries and they’re separated,
sometimes for long periods of time. And so, evolution becomes more dramatic. This museum is about understanding life on
Earth – why it is so diverse, how we can protect it and sustain it for the future. And so, if you want to understand how life
evolved in the Caribbean Cuba is central to that puzzle. [MUSIC]>>PORZECANSKI: So, all eyes are on Cuba right now, as it’s changing at an accelerated pace. I think it’s the perfect time to engage
more deeply with Cuba, to learn and understand better its nature and culture.>>CHRIS RAXWORTHY: ¡Cuba! is a new Museum exhibition, which will be opening this fall. People are rediscovering Cuba and connecting
with it. They’re also very curious about it. It’s a chance with this exhibition where
we can bring people up to speed on the developments in Cuba, and about its environmental richness.>>PORZECANSKI: Cuba is not just one island, but actually an archipelago of over 4,000 islands and keys. It includes virtually every habitat and ecosystem
found in the whole Caribbean – mountains, freshwater ecosystems like wetlands, underground
caves, and coral reefs, such as the one being recreated behind me.>>RAXWORTHY: Islands are really fun because it’s almost like evolution goes crazy there. For the lucky animals that get to islands, they often find what we describe as empty niches. They often have opportunities to evolve and
fill these empty holes within the communities. And in some cases, that means that you have
to shift your size pretty dramatically. Cuba has things like this giant extinct owl. It was a top predator, one of the top predators
in Cuba. So, gigantism is a feature of islands. But also, oddly enough, you get exactly the
opposite, which is miniaturization. Cuba, for example, has the smallest bird in
the world — the bee hummingbird — and the second smallest frog in the world.>>PORZECANSKI: Cuba has a lot of animals and plants that are found nowhere else. Over half of the plants, 95 percent of amphibians. And with the reptiles, about 80 percent you
won’t find anywhere else.>>RAXWORTHY: So, we’re going to be featuring live animals in the exhibition, and one of them will be the knight anole, which is the largest anole
species in Cuba. The color change is really amazing on these.>>PORZECANSKI: Cuba’s nature has been protected by a combination of historical circumstance, but also because Cubans themselves have been very committed to protecting their biodiversity.>>RAXWORTHY: Gardens of the Queen are this magical reef system, which is now protected. Reefs are very different to the terrestrial
environment. We don’t see in Cuba anything like the endemism
that we see on the land. Most of the species in the marine environment
are shared with other island nations in the Caribbean. The fact that Cuba is so large, and its reef
systems have been kept in such good condition offers a tremendous conservation opportunity
for the region.>>PORZECANSKI: The Museum launched an expedition to Cuba in October 2015. This was a remarkable expedition. It brought together scientists and experts
from the American Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of Natural History in
Cuba, and Humboldt National Park. People sometimes are surprised to find out
that the Museum has been working in Cuba for over a century, and pretty steadily. And that’s because science transcends politics. Science is really about continuing to improve
our understanding of the world, and our hope is that visitors will leave this exhibition
with a more nuanced, deeper understanding of Cuba and a critical curiosity that will
spark them to go beyond the headlines and learn more about it.

3 thoughts on “Culture and Natural History in Cuba

  1. I was there when they were preparing the expedition. I remember I found some interesting localities using Google Earth and old topographic maps from the 30'. The names of those places have changed and my friends needed accurate topographic coordinates.

    Is good to know this went well. I really enjoyed some very well known faces.

    Good luck with the exhibition. I hope you can take it to Cuba once the Cuban museum gets repaired.

  2. Gostei muito deste vídeo principalmente da parte que fala sobre a ciência transcender as barreiras políticas. Talvez a ciência seja a solução para a preservação não só da natureza mas das culturas, costumes e idiomas ao redor do globo terrestre.

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