Chile - Flora and fauna

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Chile's botanical zones conform to the topographic and climatic regions. The northernmost coastal and central region is largely barren of vegetation, approaching the most closely an absolute desert in the world. On the slopes of the Andes, besides the scattered tola desert brush, grasses are found. The central valley is characterized by several species of cactus, the hard espinos, the Chilean pine, and the copihue, a red bell-shaped flower that is Chile's national flower. In southern Chile, south of the Bío-Bío River, the heavy precipitation has produced dense forests of laurels, magnolias, and various species of conifers and beeches, which become smaller and more stunted to the south. The cold temperatures and winds of the extreme south preclude heavy forestation. Grassland is found in Atlantic Chile (in Patagonia). The Chilean flora is distinct from that of Argentina, indicating that the Andean barrier existed during its formation. Chilean species include the monkey-puzzle tree and the pinelike araucaria, also found in Australia. True pines have been introduced from the Northern Hemisphere.

Chile's geographical isolation also has restricted the immigration of faunal life, so that only a few of the many distinctive Latin American animals are found. Among the larger mammals are the puma or cougar, the llamalike guanaco, the Andean wolf, and the foxlike chilla. In the forest region, several types of marsupials and a small deer known as the pudu are found.

There are many species of small birds, but most of the larger common Latin American types are absent. Few freshwater fish are native, but North American trout have been successfully introduced into the Andean lakes. Owing to the vicinity of the Humboldt Current, ocean waters abound with fish and other forms of marine life, which in turn support a rich variety of waterfowl, including different penguins. Whales are abundant, and some six species of seals are found in the area.

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