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The Amerrisque Mountains (Spanish: Serranías de Amerrisque, Cordillera de Amerrisque) are the central spine of Nicaragua and part of the Central American Range which extends throughout central Nicaragua for about 700 km (436 mi) from Honduras in the NW to Costa Rica in the SW, just a few miles from the Caribbean. The Amerrisques also are known as Cordillera Chontaleña at their central range.
As Nicaragua's divide, the Amerrisques contain some high peaks such as Pataste (1736 m) in Madriz Region, Quiabuc (1604 m) in Estelí Region, and Chagüite (1345 m) in Matagalpa Region. At the same time, they are the source of many rivers such as the Segovia (775 km), the Siquia-Escondido (207 km), while criscrossed by rivers born at other ranges such as the Grande (500 km), the Viejo (209 km), etc. The range also separates the Great Lakes Xolotlán and Cocibolca, in Western Nicaragua, from the Mosquito Coast, in Eastern Nicaragua.
The Amerrisques also boast a rich flora, due to their latitude and altitude, which ranges from sub-alpine, by Honduras, to tropical, by Costa Rica. Species range from unique regionals such as madroño, espavel, and chilamate to North American species such as pine, oak, sweetgum, and terebinth, and South Americans such as gumtree, mahogany, and rosewood.
The fauna includes mountain lions, coyotes, ocelots; deer, guatusas, tapirs; anteaters, armadillos, quetzals; guardabarrancos, toucans, harpy eagles; great owls, roadrunners, rattlesnakes; corals, fer-de-lance, etc. While the northern parts of the range are pine or oak-clad, the central parts sport dry-to-rainy forests and cattle ranching. The southern heights are covered in thick jungles along the San Juan River.
In his book The Naturalist in Nicaragua written in 1874, British geologist Thomas Belt stated that the source of America's name originated in the Amerrisque Mountains – an important source of gold in the early 1500s. Nicaraguan archaeologist Jorge Espinosa also stated that the Amerrisques gave their name to the Western Hemisphere, however, he based his thesis, for the University of Louisiana, on historical maps – drawn by John Cabot in 1497 – where the name Amerrisque already appears 5 years before Columbus set foot in Nicaragua in 1502 (El Nuevo Diario October 18, 2005).
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