Astronomers have begun to blast 3 million cubic feet of rock from a mountaintop in the Chilean Andes to make room for what will be the world’s largest optical telescope when completed near the end of the decade.
The Andes of southern South America form a hostile mountain range with glaciers, salty deserts and meagre high elevation steppes. Birds from more moderate climate zones cross this mountain range only rarely. Nevertheless, many species live on both sides of the Andes, as in the case of the Burrowing Parrot Cyanoliseus patagonus. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, together with colleagues from the University of Freiburg and the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Ethology, Viena, found that the ancestral population of the Burrowing Parrot occupied what is today Chile, and from there only a single crossing of the Andes was successful.