With a unique ecosystem that can only be found above the clouds, the mystic flat-topped Mount Roraima on the tripoint of Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil perplexed 19th-century explorers and inspired ‘The Lost World’ novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Mount Roraima lies on the Guiana Shield in the southeastern corner of Venezuela’s 30,000-square-kilometer Canaima National Park. Also called a tepui, this odd-looking geological formation is among the oldest plateaus in the world, dating back to around two billion years ago.
The mountain’s 31 km2 plateau summit area consists on all sides of cliffs rising 400 meters (1,300 ft). High altitude rains collect in small lakes and run off the massive cliffs in spectacular waterfalls.
Also known by the nickname ‘The Floating Island’, Mount Roraima is so unique, scientists are still trying to understand its ecosystem.
The mystery revolves around the fact that we know many creatures call the tops of these unique geological formations home, but we have no idea how they got there.
Did they evolve by themselves away from other ecosystems – an idea known as the ‘lost world hypothesis’, after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 novel The Lost World, which takes place at Roraima. Or did they travel there somehow?
No one knows just yet, but scientists are getting closer to an answer. Today, a remarkable 35 percent of Mount Roraima’s species are thought to be endemic, having evolved independently on Roraima over millions of years.