Madagascar is an island located off the southeastern coast of Africa. It has a wealth of biodiversity due to its isolation, ninety percent of its species are found no where else. The Tsingy be Bemaraha (Tsingy) is a 600 square mile park near the west coast side of the island. The thing that makes this park special is the limestone Jurassic stone that makes up its landscape. Millions of years of erosion have made into a mountainous maze of class=”hiddenGrammarError” pre=”of “>razor sharp towers, caves, and canyons. In Malagasy (the native language), the word tsingy means “where one cannot walk barefoot. It is not an exaggeration because the rocks can slice away boots and flesh. There is stll some areas that have not been explored mainly due to the hazards. However, some animals and plants have found ways to specialize in their existence among the refuge of sharp rocks in order to escape grazing or predators. Lemurs have found a way to leap among the spires without harm, and they use this area as a means of safe travel to fruit trees. Lemurs are mammals (monkey-like) that are only found on Madagascar. There is one lemur found in the tsingy that has retractable claws and hunts like a cat.
The making of the fantasy novel like Tsingy formations started about 200 million years ago when a bed of Porous limestone was deposited in a lagoon. There are only a couple of places on earth with this type of limestone deposits. Eventually the powers of plate tectonics had its way with the lagoon. The land was lifted up and sea levels began to fall as well. This exposed the limestone bed that had been protected under the salt water of the lagoon. After it was exposed, fresh ground water started the chemical erosion process that formed caves about 1.8 millin years ago. The calcium carbonate in limestone dissolves easily in the presence of water. The scalloped surfaces of the caves are proof of ground water erosion instead of natural processes. The fault lines from the plate tectonic uplift helped were the first to erode. Many fluctuations of the ground water table enlarged the caves which ranged in depths of down to 400 feet. Monsoons of rain started eroding away the top several feet. The cave’s ceilings eventually collapsed and formed long and straight canyons or gullies called grikes. Some of these canyons are a wide as a street and others can only barely squeeze through the human traveler. There are several natural bridges formed from boulders that have fallen and stuck before hitting bottom. There are also natural bridges formed from the eroded caves. Some of these grikes are 400 feet deep. The cutting away of these ceilings worked like a giant arrowhead process which made the sharp spires atop the canyons. Down at the bottom and along the walls of the pinnacles, an ecosystem has formed that supports all kinds of living things. Hardwood trees even grow along the bottom of the grikes.
Neil Shea. “Living On Razor’s Edge.” National Geographic November 2009: 86-109.