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acrylic on illustration board 24" x 16"
  Situated on the southeastern front of the Sierra El Aguaje, a volcanic mountain range formed some five million years before the Sea of Cortez, Nacapule Canyon harbors a unique and diverse ecology, where tropical deciduous scrub forest transitions into the Sonoran Desert. It marks the northern range limit of many tropical species and genera as well as the southern limit of many Sonoran Desert taxa. The canyon takes its name from the Nacapule Fig[1] (Ficus pertusa=Urostigma erythrostictum), one of three fig species in the canyon. The small Rock Fig[2] (Ficus petiolaris=palmeri) sprawls up rock faces while the stately Ficus insipidus[3] grows near the canyon floor, which is dominated by Mexican Fan Palms[4] (Washingtonia robusta) and the smaller San Jose Hesper Palm[5] (Brahea brandegeei), which also grows on the igneous canyon slopes composed of rhyolite and rhyodacite. The flora of the arid, south-facing slope is typical of the Sonoran Desert. It includes many cacti, including the massive Cardon[6] (Pachycereus pringlei), the Organpipe Cactus[7] (Stenocereus thurberi), and the endemic Guaymas Hedgehog Cactus[8] (Echinocereus engelmannii llanuraensis), two maguey species, Agave colorata[9] and A. chrysoglossa[10], and such desert trees as the Palo Blanco[11] (Acacia willardiana), Yellow Palo Verde[12] (Parkinsonia microphylla) and Desert Ironwood[13] (Olneya tesota).
(Continues below.)

The flora of the more mesic north-facing slope is more tropical. It includes the regional endemic shrubs Zanthoxylum mazatlanum[14], a prickly-ash, Coccoloba goldmanii[15], a sea-grape, and Vallesia laciniata[16], a dogbane, and the Mexican Passionflower[17] (Passiflora mexicana). The spurge family is the most diverse of Nacapule Canyon, with nine genera and 16 species, including Dalechampia scandens[18] and the endemic Euphorbia pediculifera linearifolia[19]. Other interesting Nacapule plants include the Mescalito[20] (Hechtia montana), a lithophytic bromeliad, and the aquatic Mexican Primrose-willow[21] (Ludwigia octovalvis). A stream runs persistently through the upper canyon in all but the driest years, providing habitat for a rich invertebrate fauna that ranges from simple worms like flatworms of the family Planariidae[22] and molluscs like springsnails[23] (Pyrgulopsis sp.) to aquatic insects like the Water Strider[24] (family Gerridae), the Backswimmer[25] (family Notonectidae), and the giant water bug[26] (Lethocerus sp.), aquatic insect larvae of caddisflies[27] (order Trichoptera) and others, and aquatic naiads of Mayflies[28] (family Heptageniidae), damselflies[29]--adult[30] (family Coenagrionidae) and others. Aquatic beetles belonging to at least three different families can be found in the stream, including the lovely Sunburst Diving Beetle and its larva[31] (Thermonectus marmoratus) and the Giant Water Scavenging Beetle[32] (Hydrophilus triangularis). Amphibians include the Canyon Treefrog[33] (Hyla arenicolor) and its tadpole[34] and the Northwest Mexico Leopard Frog[35] (Rana magnaocularis) and its tadpole[36]. A number of interesting reptile species call the canyon home, including the Yaqui Slider[37] (Trachemys yaquia), which is endemic to the region, and isolated populations of the Madrean Alligator Lizard[38] (Elgaria kingii) and Boa Constrictor[39] (Boa constrictor), the latter representing the northernmost extreme of the species' range. Rarely seen is the cryptic Brown Vine Snake[40] (Oxybelis aeneus). Commonly seen birds of the canyon include the Red-tailed Hawk[41] (Buteo jamaicensis), Broad-billed Hummingbird[42] (Cynanthus latirostris), Northern Mockingbird[43] (Mimus polyglottos), Vermilion Flycatcher[44] (Pyrocephalus rubinus), and Hooded Oriole[45] (Icterus cucullatus). Most of Nacapule Canyon's mammal fauna is nocturnal. Two conspicuous exceptions are the social White-nosed Coati[46] (Nasua narica), from a tropical genus and the Desert Bighorn Sheep[47] (Ovis canadensis), from a boreal genus.

This is the third of three paintings I produced for the "Art of the Sea of Cortez" exhibition which premiered in 2013 at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.