By Roger Dendinger

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Its venom is extremely toxic, and even a baby fer-de-lance packs enough poison to kill an adult human. Well camouflaged, it is an ambush predator, blending into a variety of environments and living without fear of people or natural predators. In total, about 135 snake species live in Costa Rica, including several types of boa constrictor. Non-poisonous, and generally not a threat to humans, boas are carnivorous, killing their prey by squeezing or constricting. 5 meters) in length and weigh over 65 pounds (29 kilograms), although much larger individuals have been recorded.

What is known is that ancient Costa Rica was a place of interaction between Mayan and Aztec cultures and Andean groups to the south. Just as the Middle American isthmus blends the plants and animals of North and South America, it also bridged northern and southern Amerindian cultures. Scientists define this region as a cultural buffer zone. Over centuries of interaction, a unique cultural synthesis shaped the lives of the people there. Sophisticated scientific tests indicate that people lived in this part of the land bridge at least 12,000 years ago, but almost nothing is known about those first inhabitants.

Noted North American biologist David Janzen has identified the tropical dry forest as an endangered ecosystem worldwide, and he was instrumental in the creation of the Guanacaste Park in the 1980s. Several other parks feature Central America’s premier natural hazard. The showpiece of Arenal National Park is the Arenal volcano, which erupted dramatically in July 1968 after centuries of lying dormant. q 11/21/02 4:35 PM Page 35 Natural Landscapes nighttime tourists. Another park devoted to volcanism is Poás Volcano National Park.

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