The Naturalist in Nicaragua, by Thomas Belt

Table of Contents


Preface to the First Edition.

Chapter 1.

Arrival at Greytown. The river San Juan. Silting up of the harbour. Crossing the bar. Lives lost on it. Sharks. Christopher Columbus. Appearance of the town. Trade. Healthiness of the town and its probable cause. Comparison between Greytown, Pernambuco, and Maceio. Wild fruits. Plants. Parrots, toucans, and tanagers. Butterflies and beetles. Mimetic forms. Alligators. Boy drowned at Blewfields by an alligator. Their method of catching wild pigs.

Chapter 2.

Commence journey up San Juan river. Palms and wild canes. Plantations. The Colorado river. Proposed improvement of the river. Progress of the delta. Mosquitoes. Disagreeable night. Fine morning. Vegetation of the banks. Seripiqui river. Mot-mots. Foraging ants: their method of hunting. Ant-thrushes. They attack the nests of other ants. Birds’ nests, how preserved from them. Reasoning powers in ants. Parallel between the Mammalia and the Hymenoptera. Utopia.

Chapter 3.

Journey up river continued. Wild pigs and jaguar. Bungos. Reach Machuca. Castillo. Capture of Castillo by Nelson. India-rubber trade. Rubber-men. Method of making india-rubber. Congo monkeys. Macaws. The Savallo river. Endurance of the boatmen. San Carlos. Interoceanic canal. Advantages of the Nicaraguan route. The Rio Frio. Stories about the wild Indians. Indian captive children. Expeditions up the Rio Frio. American river steamboats.

Chapter 4.

The lake of Nicaragua. Ometepec. Becalmed on the lake. White egrets. Reach San Ubaldo. Ride across the plains. Vegetation of the plains. Armadillo. Savannahs. Jicara trees. Jicara bowls. Origin of gourd-shaped pottery. Coyotes. Mule-breeding. Reach Acoyapo. Festa. Cross high range. Esquipula. The Rio Mico. Supposed statues on its banks. Pital. Cultivation of maize. Its use from the earliest times in America. Separation of the maize-eating from the mandioca-eating indigenes of America. Tortillas. Sugar-making. Enter the forest of the Atlantic slope. Vegetation of the forest. Muddy roads. Arrive at Santo Domingo.

Chapter 5.

Geographical position of Santo Domingo. Physical geography. The inhabitants. Mixed races. Negroes and Indians compared. Women. Establishment of the Chontales Gold–Mining Company. My house and garden. Fruits. Plantains and bananas; probably not indigenous to America: propagated from shoots: do not generally mature their seeds. Fig-trees. Granadillas and papaws. Vegetables. Dependence of flowers on insects for their fertilisation. Insect plagues. Leaf-cutting ants: their method of defoliating trees: their nests. Some trees are not touched by the ants. Foreign trees are very subject to their attack. Method of destroying the ants. Migration of the ants from a nest attacked. Corrosive sublimate causes a sort of madness amongst them. Indian plan of preventing them ascending young trees. Leaf-cutting ants are fungus-growers and eaters. Sagacity of the ants.

Chapter 6.

Configuration of the ground at Santo Domingo. Excavation of valleys. Geology of the district. Decomposition of the rocks. Gold-mining. Auriferous quartz veins. Mode of occurrence of the gold. Lodes richer next the surface than at lower depths. Excavation and reduction of the ore. Extraction of the gold. “Mantos”. Origin of mineral veins: their connection with intrusions of Plutonic rocks.

Chapter 7.

Climate of the north-eastern side of Nicaragua. Excursions around Santo Domingo. The Artigua. Corruption of ancient names. Butterflies, spiders, and wasps. Humming-birds, beetles, and ants. Plants and trees. Timber. Monkey attacked by eagle. White-faced monkey. Anecdotes of a tame one. Curassows and other game birds. Trogons, woodpeckers, mot-mots, and toucans.

Chapter 8.

Description of San Antonio valley. Great variety of animal life. Pitcher-flowered Marcgravias. Flowers fertilised by humming-birds. By insects. Provision in some flowers to prevent insects, not adapted for carrying the pollen, from obtaining access to the nectaries. Stories about wasps. Humming-birds bathing. Singular myriapods. Ascent of Pena Blanca. Tapirs and jaguars. Summit of Pena Blanca.

Chapter 9.

Journey to Juigalpa. Description of Libertad. The priest and the bell. Migratory butterflies and moths. Indian graves. Ancient names. Dry river-beds. Monkeys and wasps. Reach Juigalpa. Ride in neighbourhood. Abundance of small birds. A poor cripple. The “Toledo.” Trogons. Waterfall. Sepulchral mounds. Broken statues. The sign of the cross. Contrast between the ancient and the present inhabitants. Night life.

Chapter 10.

Juigalpa. A Nicaraguan family. Description of the road from Juigalpa to Santo Domingo. Comparative scarcity of insects in Nicaragua in 1872. Water-bearing plants. Insect-traps. The south-western edge of the forest region. Influence of cultivation upon it. Sagacity of the mule.

Chapter 11.

Start on journey to Segovia. Rocky mountain road. A poor lodging. The rock of Cuapo. The use of large beaks in some birds. Comoapa. A native doctor. Vultures. Flight of birds that soar. Natives live from generation to generation on the same spot. Do not give distinctive names to the rivers. Caribs barter guns and iron pots for dogs. The hairless dogs of tropical America. Difference between artificial and natural selection. The cause of sterility between allied species considered. The disadvantages of a covering of hair to a domesticated animal in a tropical country.

Chapter 12.

Olama. The “Sanate.” Muy-muy. Idleness of the people. Mountain road. The “Bull Rock.” The bull’s-horn thorn. Ants kept as standing armies by some plants. Use of honey-secreting glands. Plant-lice, scale-insects, and leaf-hoppers furnish ants with honey, and in return are protected by the latter. Contest between wasps and ants. Waxy secretions of the homopterous hemiptera.

Chapter 13.

Matagalpa. Aguardiente. Fermented liquors of the Indians. The wine-palm. Idleness of the Nicaraguans. Pine and oak forests. Mountain gorge. Jinotega. Native plough. Descendants of the buccaneers. San Rafael. A mountain hut.

Chapter 14.

Great range composed of boulder clay. Daraily. Lost on the savannahs. Jamaily. A deer-hunter’s family. Totagalpa. Walls covered with cement, and whitewashed. Ocotal. The valley of Depilto. Hawks and small birds. Depilto. Silver mine. Geology of the valley. Glacial drift. The glacial period in Central America. Evidence that the ice extended to the tropics. Scarcity of gold in the valley gravels. Difference of the Mollusca on the east and west coast of the Isthmus of Darien. The refuge of the tropical American animals and plants during the glacial period. The lowering of the sea-level. The land shells of the West Indian Islands. The Malay Archipelago. Easter Island. Atlantis. Traditions of the deluge.

Chapter 15.

A Nicaraguan criminal. Geology between Ocotal and Totagalpa. Preparations at Totagalpa for their annual festival. Chicha-drinking. Piety of the Indians. Ancient civilisation of tropical America. Palacaguina. Hospitality of the Mestizos. Curious custom at the festival at Condego. Cross range between Segovia and Matagalpa. Sontuli. Birds’ nests.

Chapter 16.

Concordia. Jinotega. Indian habits retained by the people. Indian names of towns. Security of travellers in Nicaragua. Native flour-mill. Uncomfortable lodgings. Tierrabona. Dust whirlwind. Initial form of a cyclone. The origin of cyclones.

Chapter 17.

Cattle-raising. Don Filiberto Trano’s new house. Horse-flies and wasps. Teustepe. Spider imitating ants. Mimetic species. Animals with special means of defence are conspicuously marked, or in other ways attract attention. Accident to horse. The “Mygale.” Illness. Conclusion of journey.

Chapter 18.

Division of Nicaragua into three zones. Journey from Juigalpa to lake of Nicaragua. Voyage on lake. Fresh-water shells and insects. Similarity of fresh-water productions all over the world. Distribution of European land and fresh-water shells. Discussion of the reasons why fresh-water productions have varied less than those of the land and of the sea.

Chapter 19.

Iguanas and lizards. Granada. Politics. Revolutions. Cacao cultivation. Masaya. The lake of Masaya. The volcano of Masaya. Origin of the lake basin.

Chapter 20.

Indian population of the country lying between the great lakes of Nicaragua and the Pacific. Discovery and conquest of Nicaragua by the Spaniards. Cruelties of the Spaniards. The Indians of Western Central America all belonged to one stock. Decadence of Mexican civilisation before the arrival of the Spaniards. The designation “Nahuatls” proposed to include all the Mexican, Western Central American, and Peruvian races that had descended from the same ancient stock. The Nahuatls distinct from the Caribs on one side and the Red Indians on the other. Discussion of the question of the peopling of America.

Chapter 21.

Return to Santo Domingo. The birds of Chontales. The insects of Chontales. Mimetic forms. Departure from the mines. Nicaragua as a field for emigration. Journey to Greytown. Return to England.

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