Recommended Books, Articles & Web Sites on the Natural History of Costa Rica
Fortunate are those who have learned to see, in the wild things of nature, something to be loved, something to be wondered at, something to be reverenced, for they will have found the key to a never-failing source of recreation and refreshment.
H. B. Cott, Adaptive Coloration in Animals (1940).
This page is always under construction: items will be added as time permits. This means there are entire topics untouched - please feel free to recommend items!
These resources are intended for use by students, travelers and scholars interested in the details of any aspect of the natural history of Costa Rica. Each section begins with general references, then the more technical and narrow ones follow. Use your browser's "find" feature to locate topics of particular interest, as I've made no attempt to cross list topics.
- The Classic: Costa Rican Natural History edited by D. H. Janzen, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1983.
- An excellent general introduction which uses many examples from Costa Rica: A Neotropical Companion: an introduction to the animals, plants & ecosystems of the neotropics by John Kricher.
- INBIO publishes lots of good field guides with color photos, generally in both English and Spanish. See the list here.
- The Green Republic: A Conservation History of Costa Rica by Sterling Evans, Univ. of Texas Press 1999.
- Organization for Tropical Studies
- INBIO Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (check out their books under "editorial")
- EARTH University
- Tropical Science Center
Amphibians & Reptiles
- J. M. Savage. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica: A Herptofauna Between Two Continents, Between Two Seas Univ. of Chicago Press, 2002.
- More Technical:
- J. W. Daly, T. F. Spande & H. M. Garraffo. "Alkaloids from Amphibian Skin: A Tabulation of Over Eight-Hundred Compounds" J. Nat. Prod. 2006, 68, 1556-1575. Documents the huge variety of chemical compounds found in the skin of frogs, which are now understood to come from the frogs' arthropod diets.
- R. A. Saporito et al. "Orbatid Mites as a Major Source for Dietary Alkaloids in Poison Frogs" PNAS 2007, 104, 8885-8890. Reports that mites, in addition to ants, are a source of the compounds in the frogs' skins.
- Ants as the source of pumiliotoxins: R. A. Saporito et al. "Formicine Ants: An Arthropod Source for the Pumiliotoxin Alkaloids of Dendrobatid Poison Frogs" PNAS, 2004, 21, 8045-8050.
- Arthropods of La Selva
- The Cecropia-Azteca association (web site by Jon Longino of Evergreen College)
- Leaf Cutter Ants: You probably know that leaf cutter ants "farm" a fungus on the leaves they harvest. However, there is another fungus that can attack the nests, and the ants harbor a bacterium that secretes an antibiotic to stop the invading, undesirable fungus: C. R. Currie et al. " Coevolved Crypts and Exocrine Glands Support Mutalistic Bacteria in Fungus-Growing Ants" Science, 2006, 311, 81-83.
- See the Amphibians & Reptile heading for more about ants in the diet of frogs.
- M. Fogden & P. Fogden. Hummingbirds of Costa Rica Firefly Books, 2006.
- S. C. L. Fogden, M. Fogden & P. Fogden. Photographic Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica Ralph Curtis Publishers, 2005.
- F. G. Stiles & A. F. Skutch. A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica Cornell Univ. Press, 1990.
- R. Garrigues & R. Dean The Birds of Costa Rica Zona Tropical, 2007.
Chemistry of Regionally Important Foods
- G. Tannenbaum "Chocolate: A Marvelous Natural Product of Chemistry" Journal of Chemical Education vol. 81 no. 8 August 2004 pg 1131.
- M. Petracco "Our Everyday Cup of Coffee: The Chemistry Behind Its Magic" Journal of Chemical Education vol. 82 no. 8 August 2005 pg 1161.
- Nakarmura et al "Papaya Seed Represents a Rich Source of Biologically Active Isothiocyanate" J. Agric. Food Chem. 55 2007 4407-4413.
Climate Change and its Effect on Flora/Fauna
- J. A. Pounds, M. P. L. Fogden & J. H. Campbell " Biological Response to Climate Change on a Tropical Mountain" Nature 1999, 398, 611-615. Documents changes in several groups of animals at Monte Verde in response to climate change.
- J. A. Pounds et al. "Widespread Amphibian Extinctions from Epidemic Disease Driven by Global Warming" Nature 2006, 439, 161-167. A continuation of the work just above. Demonstrates that climate change in the New World highland tropics has optimized the environment for the Chytrid fungus which attacks amphibian populations.
- S. M. Whitfield et al. "Amphibian and Reptile Declines over 35 Years at La Selva, Costa Rica" PNAS 2007. A long term study showing steady decline in both amphibian and reptile populations due to changes in leaf litter, which are in turn correlated with climate changes.
- R. K. Colwell et al. "Gobal Warming, Elevational Range Shifts, and Lowland Biotic Attrition in the Wet Tropics" Science (2008) vol. 322 258-261.
- Click here to jump to the Costa Rica section of my medicinal plant pages
Because cultural groups don't restrict themselves to modern political boundaries, I have included here articles on indigenous groups in the areas immediately beyond Costa Rica.
- General Works on Indigenous Groups
- Rodrigo Salazar S. The Costa Rican Indigenous People: An Ethnographic Overview Editorial Technológica de Costa Rica, 2002 (in parallel English and Spanish).
- E. Orso. Monograph and Dissertation Series No. 1, 1970. "Hot and Cold in the Folk Medicine of the Island of Chira, Costa Rica." Latin American Studies Institute, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA (Ph.D. Thesis).
- Afro-Caribbean Cultures
- H. G. Lefever Turtle Bogue: Afro-Caribbean Life and Culture in a Costa Rican Village Susquehanna Univ. Press, pub in 1990's.
- P. Palmer. What Happen?: A Folk-History of Costa Rica's Talamanca Coast Zona Tropical, 2005.
- F. Kuhn de Anta Walter Ferguson: El Rey del Calipso Editorial Universidad Estatal a Distancia, 2006.
- D. Z. Stone. "The Boruca of Costa Rica" Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, 1949, XXVI(2).
- Bribri & Cabécar
- M. Bozzoli. El Nacimiento Y La Muerte Entre Los Bribris Universidad De Costa Rica, 1979.
- C. R. Garcia-Serrano and J. P. Del Monte. "The Use of Tropical Forest (Agroecosystems and Wild Plant Harvesting) as a Source of Food in the Bribri and Cabecar Cultures in the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica" Economic Botany, 2004, 58(1), 58-71.
- J. A. Camacho-Zamora. "Etnobotanica Cabecar" America Indigena, 1983, XLIII(1), 58-86.
- S. Ginzbarg. "Plantas Medicinales De Los Indios Bribris Y Cabecar" America Indigena, 1977, XXXVII(2), 367-398.
- A. Skinner. "Notes on the Bribri of Costa Rica" Indian Notes and Monographs: A Series of Publications Relating to the American Aborigines, New York Museum of the American Indian Heye Foundation, 1920, VI(3).
- A. G. Chaves and F. G. Vásquez La Casa Cósmica Talamanqueña y sus simbolismos Editorial de la universidad Costa Rica y Editorial Universidad Estatal a Distancia, 1989.
- Guaymi (Costa Rica & Panamá, also called the Ngöbe)
- D. L. Hazlett. "Ethonobotanical Observations from Cabécar and Guaymi Settlements in Central America" Economic Botany, 1986, 40(3), 339-352.
- L. G. Joly, et al. "Ethnobotanical Inventory of Medicinal Plants Used by the Guaymi Indians in Western Panama. Part I" Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 1987, 20, 145-171.
- L. G. Joly, et al. "Ethnobotanical Inventory of Medicinal Plants Used by the Guaymi Indians in Western Panama. Part II" Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 1990, 28, 191-206.
- H. C. Langlois Ethnobotanical Analysis of Different Successional Stages as Sources of Wild Edible Plants for the Guaymi People in Costa Rica Univ of Florida MS Thesis, 2004.
- K. Lincoln & B. Orr "The Use and Cultural Significance of the Pita Plant (Aechmea magdalenae) among Ngöbe Women of Chalite, Panamá" Economic Botany vol. 65 no. 1 pgs 13-26 (2011).
- Teribes (Panamá)
- M. P. Gupta, et al. "Medical Ethnobotany of the Teribes of Bocas del Toro, Panamá" Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2005, 96, 389-401.
- Garifuna & Others (Nicaragua)
- F. G. Coe and G. J. Anderson. "Snakebite Ethnopharmacopoeia of Eastern Nicaragua" Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2005, 96, 303-323.
- P. A. Dennis. "Herbal Medicine Among the Miskito of Eastern Nicaragua" Economic Botany, 1988, 42(1), 16-28.
- B. Barrett. "Medicinal Plants of Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast" Economic Botany, 1994, 48(1), 8-20.
- F. G. Coe and G. J. Anderson. "Ethnobotany of the Garifuna of Eastern Nicaragua" Economic Botany, 1996, 50(1), 71-107.
- F. G. Coe and G. J. Anderson. "Screening of Medicinal Plants Used by the Garifuna of Eastern Nicaragua for Bioactive Compounds" Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 1996, 53, 29-50.
- Caribs of Guatemala
- L. M. Giron et al. "Ethnobotanical Survey of the Medicinal Flora Used by the Caribs of Guatemala" Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 1991, 34, 173-187.
- Kuna (Panamá)
- M. P. Gupta, et al. "Medicinal Plant Inventory of Kuna Indians: Part 1" Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 1993, 40, 77-109.
- J. Ventocilla, H. Herrera and V. Núñez Plants and Animals in the Life of the Kuna Univ. of Texas Press, 1995.
- Jicaque (Honduras)
- D. L. Lentz. "Ethnobotany of the Jicaque of Honduras" Economic Botany, 1986, 40(2), 210-219.
Lepidoptera (Butterflies & Moths)
- P. J. DeVries. The Butterflies of Costa Rica and Their Natural History Princeton Univ. Press (several volumes).
- M. Wainwright. The Natural History of Costa Rican Mammals
- More Technical:
- M. E. Zaldivar et al. "Distribution, Ecology, Life History, Genetic Variation & Risk of Extinction of Nonhuman Primates from Costa Rica" Rev. Biol. Trop. Sept 2004, vol. 52, no. 3, pgs 679-693 (available free online from publishers web site)
Plant Domestication & Distribution
- More Technical:
- R. Dickau, A. J. Ranere, & R. G. Cooke "Starch Grain Evidence for the Preceramic Dispersals of Maize and Root Crops into Tropical Dry and Humid Forests of Panama" Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 2007 vol. 104 no. 9 pgs. 3651-3656. Discusses the movement of important domesticated plants through the central american region: manioc, maize, arrowroot, as well the use of some more or less wild foodstuffs (Zamia, Dioscorea, nance).
Plant Families: Check my Medicinal Plant Technical Bibliography
Plants: Chemistry of Noteworthy Species (all technical)
- S. E. Nielsen et al "Triterpenoid Saponins from Phytolacca rivinoides & Phytolacca bogotensis" Phytochemistry 1995, 39(3), 625-630.
- Natural History of Monte Verde
- La Selva
- La Selva: Ecology and Natural History of a Neotropical Rain Forest Univ. of Chicago Press, 1994.
- See also the section on Indigenous Groups
- Condit et. al. Trees of Panama and Costa Rica Princeton University Press (date?).
Zoopharmacognosy (the use of medicinal substances by animals; all technical)
- Use of millipedes by capichin monkeys and coatis
- P. Weldon et al. "Benzoquinones from Millipedes Deter Mosquitoes and Elicit Self-Anointing in capuchin Monkeys (Cebus spp.)" Naturwissenschaften, 2003, 90, 301-304.
- P. Weldon et al. "Prey-Rolling Behavior of Coatis (Nasua spp.) is Elicited by Benzoquinones from Millipedes" Naturwissenschaften, 2006, 93, 14-16.
- Use of medicinal plants by capuchin monkeys
- M. Baker. "Fur Rubbing: Use of Medicinal Plants by Capuchin Monkeys (Cebus capucinus)" American Journal of Primatology, 1996, 38, 263-270.
Last updated Friday, January 25, 2013 . Contents & layout copyright 2013 Prof. Bryan Hanson