Maladaptive Decadence in The Amazon Basin

Nell Zink at Harper’s Magazine:

The rule of thumb for temperate rainforests is one third live trees, one third snags, one third nurse logs. I saw almost no dead trees in Amazonia, standing or otherwise. Things rot too fast. A dead tree can’t defend itself or maintain a symbiotic relationship with someone who will (ants). Apparently a forest can be unimaginably ancient without having a single organism make it past a few dozen years.

A toucan appeared in a neighboring tree. The glossy black toupee of an aspiring Sicilian shepherd boy sat awkwardly on his reddish mullet. His yellow shirt was set off by crimson chaps. His eyes were those of a chameleon. His bill bore tattooed teeth. His white face had five-o’clock shadow. His feet were greenish. Macaws passed over, tanagers flocked in the branches closest to us, but my gaze kept returning to my friend. He perched there for half an hour, occasionally swiveling to make sure I got an adequate impression of his mind-fucking lacquered hairstyle. I mean, sorry. Evolution, all right, sure, whatever. But this?

more here.