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Cuicocha is a wide caldera and crater lake at the foot of Cotacachi Volcano in the Cordillera Occidental of the Ecuadorian Andes. Its name comes from the Kichwa Indigenous language and signifies: "Lago del Cuye" or Guinea Pig Laguna in English. It was given this name due to the shape of the largest Island located in the middle of the Laguna resembling a Guinea Pig. These animals play a significant part in the everyday life of Ecuadorians, as it reproduces rapidly and needs a minimum of food and care to survive, it makes for an excellent high protein meal especially for populations living in altitude. The caldera was created by a massive phreatic eruption about 3100 years ago that generated about 5 cubic kilometres of pyroclastic flow and covered the surrounding area in volcanic ash up to 20 cm deep. The volcano has been dormant since that time. In combination with other eruptions from nearby Imbabura, Mojanda, Cotacachi, and Cayambe, Cuicocha is responsible for the fertile soil of the Otavalo valley.

The crater lake within the Cuicocha caldera contains four dacitic lava domes which form two steep forested islands: Yerovi, the smaller, and Teodoro Wolf, the larger. People are prohibited on both. The rim of the caldera is extremely steep – so steep, in fact, that the accumulation of sediment is insufficient for most hydrophyte vegetation. An older lava dome from the Pleistocene forms part of the eastern rim. The lake, which is 200 m deep at its deepest point, is highly alkaline and contains little life. It has no known outlet.

The intra-caldera islands, on the other hand, support some wildlife, most notably the Silvery Grebe, which lives around the reeds and feeds on algae. The bird is found in upper temperate and lower paramo zones throughout the Andes, but little is known about the species. In 1974 a census was taken of the population of grebes at Cuicocha and 44 birds were found.

Cuicocha forms the southern end of the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve.During the second day of Inti Raymi (or Sun Festival) every summer solstice, indigenous shaman use Cuicocha as a bath of ritual cleansing and purification.

See also

List of volcanoes in Ecuador

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Cuicocha

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