Ethnopteridology of the Guaranis of Misiones Province, Argentina.
KEY WORDS.--Guarani communities, ethnobotany, ferns and lycophytes, Parana forest
Economic botanists have frequently concentrated on ferns as the focus of their studies, especially their medicinal properties and to a lesser extent their use as foods (Copeland, 1942; Looser and Rodriguez, 2004; Molina et al., 2009, Ortega and Diaz, 1993; Ruiz Lopez, 1805; Turner et al., 1992). Ethnobotanical studies of ferns and lycophytes have been carried out in various part of the world, for example in Bolivia with the ethnopteridological study of the Chacobo (Boom, 1985), the comparative study of ferns and lycophytes used by the Huaorani in Ecuador and the Tacana of Bolivia (Macia, 2004), and in Nigeria in a study of various ethnic groups by Nwosu (2002). Precusors of this type of study in Argentina are limited to the work of Hurrel and de la Sota (1996) who studied the ethnobotany of ferns in a high altitude pasture in the Province of Salta.
The Province of Misiones is the center of diversity of ferns and lycophytes of Argentina (Ponce et al., 2002) where there are 1,123,000 hectares of subtropical, semideciduous Paranfi forest and Alto Parana Atlantic rainforest (Placci and Di Bitteti, 2005). The catalogue of vascular plants of Argentina cited 158 species of monilophytes and lycophytes for the Province of Misiones (Ponce, 1996), but there have been many recent additions (Marquez et al., 2006; Martinez, and de la Sota, 2005; Meza Torres et al., 2006, 2008, 2010, Ponce, 2001; Tressens et al., 2008) bringing the total up to 180 species. This shows the increasing knowledge about the botanical richness of the extreme northeast of the country. The diversity of ferns and lycophytes is also high at the local level. In a reserve of 5340 hectares (about 0.18% of the area of the Province) 80 taxa of these groups were found which represents 43.23% of the total fern flora of the Province (Tressens et al., 2008). This diversity of species in an area that can be studied in a few days means that they are readily available for use by local peoples who depend on the resources of the flora for their livelihood, especially the indigenous communities that have lived in the area for thousands of years.
Misiones has about one hundred Guarani communities of the Mbya and Ava Chiripa. Up to present day these groups have maintained much of their traditional life including aspects of cosmology, religion, methods of subsistence, swidden agriculture, ways of hunting and fishing and the gathering of natural products from the forest. However, the fragmentation of their original habitat has obliged them to adopt various new strategies for survival as well as adapting customs of the surrounding global society, such as engaging in temporary employment and the commercialization of various natural products such as ornamental plants and crafts, especially baskets. For the Guarani, the native vegetation is one of the most important sources of materials for their traditional way of life and also of prime materials for selling to a wider audience. In this paper we analyze the importance of ferns and lycophytes to the indigenous population of Misiones, identifying the species, the Guarani names, their uses and significance.
MATERIAL AND METHODS
The fieldwork was carried out during an ethnobotanical program that took place between 2000 and 2008 in eleven Guarani villages in the Departments of Concepcion (1), Eldorado (1), Guarani (4), Lib. Gral. San Martin (1), Montecarlo (1), San Ignacio (1) and San Pedro (2). Eighty four members of the Mbya clan and five members of the Ava Chiripa were interviewed (informants). We interviewed persons of both sexes and of different ages including both old people (more than sixty years of age) and children (less than twelve years of age). During this time we used various ethnographic methods such as participant observations and structured and semi-structured interviews. In some cases herbarium vouchers were collected during walks with informants and in other cases the herbarium material was shown to community members to ask them about names and uses of the plants. This material is deposited in the Institute Botanica del Nordeste, Corrientes, Argentina (CTES) with duplicates distributed to various other herbaria in Argentina and other countries (ASU, B, BA, CANB, CESJ, ESA, GH, LIL, LP, MEXU, MO, NY, PC, SI). Part of the ethnobotanical work was carried out in a village that is in the Guarani Multiple-use Reserve and is where Tressens et al. (2008) carried out an exhaustive floristic inventory and so some of the herbarium vouchers are from that study. The literature studied delimits the ferns and lycophytes families in various ways and here we have followed the nomenclature of de la Sota et al. (1998) and Mickel and Smith (2004) both of whom presented their results at the generic and species level without assignment to family.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
A total of 50 species were indicated as useful by the communities studied (Table 1). These belong to 32 genera and represent 28% of the fern flora of the Province. Regarding the categories of use (Fig. 1), 38 species (76%) were indicated as medicinal, 19 species (38%) are sold commercially as ornamentals or as physical supports for growing ferns and orchids, 15 species (30%) are used in magic, mainly as talismans, 4 species (8%) are ecological indicators, 3 species (6%) are used in crafts (necklaces), and a single species (2%) is used as food. The use of tree ferns to make arrow points is mentioned in the literature but was not found to be in use today.
Folk nomenclature.--The general term for ferns in Guarani is amambdi and this includes those species in the class Polypodiopsida. They do not consider tree ferns or those generically known as chachi (various ferns with entire fronds) as amambai. The Guarani plant names usually describe a morphological or organoleptic character of the plant. For example, amambai taka (bifurcate or branched fern) refers to the fertile fronds that are several times divided of Doryopteris nobilis. Because of its sturdy structure Pteridium arachnoideum is called amambai rata (= hard fern). Pecluma pectinatiformis is named amambai e'e (= sweet fern) because of the sweet taste of its fronds. Other species of this genus such as P. sicca are called amambai piru (= dry fern) because their leaves shrivel up in dry periods and then return to normal once humid conditions return. It is interesting to note that the specific epithet of this species "siccum' (= dry) also refers to this same quality. Other names are associated with animals because of some morphological similarity. For example, mborevi po (tapir paw) is the name of Doryolateris nobilis whose sterile fronds look like the footprint of a tapir (Fig. 2A). Names can sometimes be associated with the habitat of animals, as in jakare ka'a (= caiman herb) for Thelypteris riograndensis, which, like caimans, lives beside water sources. This name is similarly applied to various ferns by the Tupi-guarani of Amazonia (Balee, 1994).
Some names refer to other plants, for example species of Selaginella are called koto jaryi (= false moss) and Adiatopsis chlorophylla is called kurunjy u miri (small specimen of the tree kurunjy u). Some species have bilingual names, as for Huperzia mandiocana which is called laino tyre'i (epiphytic pine). Other names are derived from the Spanish as is the case for Adiantum called kurantrijo (derived from culantrillo: Adiantum capillus-veneris L., widely distributed in Europe) or from the Quichua language as in karaguara (calaguala) that refers to the genera Asplenium L. (A. balansae and A. brasiliense), Campyloneuron and Niphidium. Finally, various names refer to their use, such as Pleopeltis pleopeltifolia being called memby ja (giver of children) which is taken by women to increase their fertility.
Medicines.--Medicinal plants are generally used by the Guarani in the fresh state preferably on the day they are collected. The storing of medicines is confined to plants located far from the village or of short duration. The most frequent method of use is in decoctions of macerated plant material in water at room temperature. It is also common to mix the medicinal material in mate water (the infusion of leaves of Ilex paraguariensis A. St.-Hil. in the Aquifoliaceae) taken on a daily basis. Many species are used to treat infections of the reproductive system and this use accounts of the most uses reported here (46%). This agrees with the findings of an ethnobotanical study of the Guarani communities of Pai'i tavytera in Amambay Department of Paraguay (Basualdo and Soria, 2002) where of the three species cited two were used to treat female fertility. Other medicinal use categories that stand out are: treatment of infections of the respiratory (18%), digestive (16%), circulatory (12%) and nervous systems (12%).
Many plants used by the Guaranf of Misiones have their origins from the doctrine of signatures (Keller, 2007). Women who want to have a large family eat ferns of the genera Pleopeltis and Pecluma that are characterized by their prolific production of small fronds. Tapirs (Tapirus terrestris) sleep on their backs with their hooves pressed against their chests and the Guaranf maintain that in this way they cure heart problems. For this reason they attribute heart-healing properties to Doryopteris nobilis (mborevi po or tapir hooves) whose sterile fronds resemble the tracks of this animal.
Commercialization.--The sale of ornamental plants is the second most important use of ferns and their allies in the communities studied. Ornamental species are sold as single plants or on frames or wooden supports, and others are used to add to groups of epiphytic orchids, which they sell in stands beside the highways (Fig. 2B). One of the most sought after species from the roadside stands is Huperzia mandioccana, which is not a common plant. The commercial use of this species could threaten the future of its natural populations. The stems of the tree fern Dicksonia sellowiana, a rare species in the region, are cut and sectioned for sale (Fig. 2C). This is a substrate widely used by nurseries as a support for orchids and other epiphytes. The bases of other ferns with a robust stem such as Alsophylla setosa are also sometimes used in the same way.
Magic.--Most of the plants used for magic by the Guarani have names associated with animals and they are usually aromatic plants. They term them vy'aja (givers of happiness) or iru pora (good friends) to their personal charms. They frequently carry fragments of leaves and other plant materials in pouches in order to have good results form various events especially in their declarations of love. The most used ferns in this category are species of the genus Anemia Sw. whose fronds are aromatic and are used in various procedures to attract members of the opposite sex. Sometimes they use these plants as a perfume, rubbing the fragrant material on their cheeks. At other times they place fragments of the fern in the bowl of their pipes and blow the smoke in the direction of the person they hope to conquer. The propagules of fern fronds with gemmae are also frequently used as charms (Fig. 2D).
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
Ecological indicator plants.--Various small ferns grow on tree trunks and often, together with mosses and lichens, form a living carpet along the branches. The Guarani have noted that some of these small plants are more abundant on the north-facing side of the host tree (Fig. 2E) because this side does not receive as much direct sunlight, and this is particularly so on trees of large diameter. During their long treks through the forest at night or on cloudy days it is possible to estimate the probable compass points from the location of the carpets of epiphytes on a tree. This is especially true on large, straight-trunked trees.
There are various edaphic characteristics of the deep red soils of Misiones that make them hard to cultivate, such as low fertility, high acidity, high aluminum content, and susceptibility to erosion (Ligier et al., 1990). The Guarani identify, where this type of soil occurs in the forest by the presence of tree ferns (Fig. 2F), specifically Alsophylla setosa, and so they avoid establishing their slash and burn agriculture on these sites.
Some large ferns, such as Pteris deflexa, form dense clumps on the edge of or in the forest. The Guarani say that it wise to avoid these areas because of the large number of ticks that occur there. In addition they say that the small deer Mazama nana (Cervidae) has the habit of hiding under the fronds of this fern and so they call the deer "amambai guy'i", which translated means "he who is under the fern."
Crafts.--The Guarani make many crafts from nature such as baskets and carvings either for their own personal use or to sell. They often make bead necklaces to sell to tourists or for themselves for use by either men or women. Amongst the materials used to make beads we have observed the use of the shiny black petioles of Adiantopsis chlorophylla, Adiantum pseudotinctum and Doryopteris nobilis.
Arrow points.--The construction of arrow points involving the use of the cord-like sclerenchimatous tissue of tree fern petioles by the indigenous people of Misiones was mentioned by Queirel (1897). The mythology of the guayakies of Paraguay refers to "arrows of ferns" (Fernandez, 1992). We have not been able to verify this use from contemporary Guaranis.
Conclusions.--The Guarani of Misiones use a considerable part of the fern flora of the Province. Ferns and lycophytes provide a variety of resources to maintain their traditional methods of subsistence and their more modern commercial life. The conservation of the biological diversity of Misiones Province undoubtedly has helped to avoid erosion of the cultural diversity of the region as well.
Firstly we thank the members of the communities studied for the time and information given. We are grateful to CONICET (Argentina) and the Darwin Initiative (U. K.) for financing our ethnobotanical studies and to M. Dematteis, Ph.D., for a critical reading of the manuscript.
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HECTOR A. KELLER and ESTEBAN I. MEZA TORRES
Instituto de Botanica del Nordeste, UNNE-CONICET, C.C.: 209, 3400 Corrientes, Argentina, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
GHILLEAN T. PRANCE
School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading, RG6 6AS, UK, e-mail: email@example.com
TABLE 1. List of the ferns and fern allies used by the Guarani of Misiones, Argentina. SPECIES GUARANI NAME USES Adiantopsis kurunjy u miri --Necklace beads chlorophylla (small tree of (Sw.) Fee Trema micrantha) --Expectorant, treatment of heart problems, stomach refresher Adiantopsis amambdi u --Febrifuge, treatment radiata (L.) Fee (black fern) of nosebleed Adiantum kurantrijo (from pseudotinctum the Spanish --Treatment of Hieron. "culantrillo", = headaches and small cilantro") nausea, post partum washing, nosebleed --Necklace beads Adiantum kurantrijo (from --Treatment of raddianum the Spanish headache and C. Presl. "culantrillo", = nausea, febrifuge, "small cilantro" nosebleed, diarrhea Alsophila chachi rakua (tree --Stands for setosa Kaulf. fern with spines) ornamental plants --Formerly used for arrow points --Indicator that soil not suitable for agriculture --Treatment of Herpes sp. Anemia nachi'u ra (similar --Male charm to phyllitidis (L.) to a mosquito), attract opposite sex Sw. typycha ovy (blue brush) --Treatment of sinusitis, expectorant, antidepressant, stomach refresher, treatment of heart infections Anemia jakare ka'a --Male charm to simplicior (caiman plant) attract opposite sex (Christ) Mickel Anemia jakare ka'a --Male charm to tomentosa (caiman plant) attract opposite sex (Sav.) Sw. --Muscular tonic, prevention of illness Asplenium karaguara yvy --Sold as an bolansae reegua (calaguala ornamental (Baker) of the earth) Sylvestre --Contraceptive, menstrual analgesic Asplenium karaguara yvv --Sold as an brosiliense Sw reegua (calaguala ornamental of the earth) --Contraceptive, menstrual analgesic Asplenium kuna manje'a --Sold as an scandicinum (for women) ornamental Kaulf. --Male charm to attract the opposite sex Blechnum amambdi (fern) --Female australe L. contraceptive, subsp. treatment of auriculatum headache (Cav.) de la Sota Blechnum amambdi (fern) --Sold as an oustrobrasilianum ornamental de la Sota Blechnum amambdi (fern) --Sold as an brasiliense Desv. ornamental Campyloneurum karaguara ita --Sold as an lapathifolium reegua (growing ornamental (Poir.) Ching on rocks) --Menstrual analgesic, treatment of gastritis Campyloneurum karaguara ita --Sold as an nitidum (Kaulf.) reegua (growing ornamental C.Presl on rocks), mburika ka'a (donkey herb), --Treatment of nausea, jagua ka'a (dog epilepsy, muscular herb) tonic, blood purifier, female contraceptive, abortive, menstrual analgesic, to facilitate child birth, post-partum washing, treatment of gastritis, asthma, lumbago and kidney infections. Dicksonia chachi raviju --Stands for sellowiana Hook. (woody tree fern), ornamental plants kereke --Formerly used for arrow points --Treatment of burns and measles Didymochlaena amambdi (fern) --Stands for truncatula (Sw.) ornamental plants J. Sm. --Sold as an ornamental Doryopteris mborevi po (tapir --Sold as an nobilis (Moore) pawr); amambdi ornamental C.Chr. take (fern with bifurcate fronds) --Necklace beads --Male charm to attract opposite sex --Treatment of colds, headaches, cardiac infections, diarrhea, menstrual analgesic. Elophoglossum karaguara ita --Female pachydermum reegua (growing contraceptive, (Fee) T. Moore on racks) abortive, menstrual analgesic Equisetum kavaju rugudi --Treatment of giganteum L. (horse tail) headaches, epilepsy and kidney infections Hemionitis rorarija (from --Sold as an tomentosa spanish ornamental (Lam.) Raddi "doradilla", because the --Used in a procedure ferruginous to gain power, indumentum) --Treatment of heart and kidney infections, menstrual analgesic, treatment of female sterility, for healing childs navel, blodd purifier Huperzia pino tyre'i --Sold as an mandiocana (epiphytic pine) ornamental (Raddi) Trevis. Lastreopsis amambdi tyre'i --Male charm to effusa (Sw.) (orphan fern) attract opposite sex Tindale Lycopodiella urukure'a ka'a --Male charm to cernua (L.) Pic. (owl herb) attract opposite sex Serm. Lycopodium urukure'a ka'a --Male charm to clavatum L. (owl herb) attract opposite sex Lygodium jakare ka'a --Male charm to volubile Sw (caiman plant) attract opposite sex Microgramma ambere ka'a --Treatment of kidney lindbergii (Kuhn) (small lizard plant) infections and de la Sota deafness, menstrual analgesic Microgramma ambere mboi (small --Slimming, menstrual squamulosa lizard-snake), analgesic, female (Kaulf.) de la anguja ruguai contraceptive, post Sota (rat tail) partum washing, treatment of lumbago. Microgramma ambere ka'a, --Treatment of kidney vacciniifolia ambere mby (small infections and (Langsd. & lizard plant) deafness, menstrual Fisch.) Copel. analgesic Niphidium karaguara yvyra --Sold as an crassifolium reegua (that which ornamental (L.) Lellinger grows on trees) --Indicator of cardinal points --Muscular toner, menstrual analgesic, treatment to ease child birth, post partum washing Ophioglossum kochi apia'i --For colds reticulatum L. (peccary penis) Osmunda nachi'u rd guachu --Treatment of sore regalis L. (large Anemia throats phyllitidis) --Male charm to attract opposite sex Pecluma filicula amambdi piru --Sold as an (Kaulf.) M. G. (dry fern) ornamental Price --Treatment of female sterility Pecluma amambdi re'e --Chewed as a sweet pectinatiformis (sweet fern) (Lindm.) M. G. --Sold as an Price ornamental --Treatment of epilepsy, blood purifier Pecluma sicca amambai piru --Sold as an (Lindm.) M.G. (dry fern) ornamental Price --Treatment of female sterility Pecluma amambai piru --Sold as an singeri (de la (dry fern) ornamental Sota) M.G. Price --Treatment of female sterility Phlebodium karoguara (from --Menstrual analgesic areolatum quichua (Willd.) J. Sm. "Calaguala") Pleopeltis memby ja (giver of --Menstrual analgesic, pleopeltifolia children) treatment of (Raddi) Alston excessive menstruation and female sterility Pleopeltis teko'a pord ja --Indicator of cardinal squalida (Vell.) (owner of good points de la Sota customs) --Menstrual analgesic, treatment of excessive menstruation and female sterility Pteridium amambai rata --Menstrual analgesic arachnoideum (hard fern) (Kaulf.) Maxon. --Indicator of places Pteris deflexa amambai (fern) with an abundance Link of ticks --Used in a magic process to forget an ex wife Pteris nachi'u ra ra --Treatment of sore denticulata Sw. (similar to Anemia throat, phyllitidis) antidepressant Selaginella guaimi rogue --Female muscosa Spring (old lady's hair), contraceptive, ygau jaryi (false washing wounds moss) Selaginella koto jaryi (false --Female sulcata (Pair.) moss) contraceptive Mart. Serpocaulon karaguora --Menstrual analgesic latipes (Langsd. (calaguala) & Fisch.) A. R. Sm. Thelypteris amambai tyre'i --Male charm to recumbens (orphan fern) attract opposite sex (Resent.) C. F. Reed --Tranquilizer for children Thelypteris jakore ka'a --Male charm to riograndensis (caiman herb) attract opposite sex (Lindm.) C. F. Reed --Antidepressant Thelypteris amambai tyre'i --Male charm to scabra (C. (orphan fern) attract opposite sex Presl)Lellinger Vittaria lineata avukujo guachu --Sold as an (L.) Sm. (great owner of ornamental long hair) --Treatment to make hair grow SPECIES PARTS USED VOUCHERS Adiantopsis --Fronds Keller 2787 chlorophylla (Sw.) Fee Adiantopsis --Fronds Keller 1057 radiata (L.) Fee Adiantum pseudotinctum --Petioles Tressens et Hieron. al. 6469 --Fronds Adiantum --Fronds Keller 1371 raddianum C. Presl. Alsophila --Stems Tressens et setosa Kaulf. al. 4719 --Sclerenchyma strands --Exudate from petiole Anemia --Fertile fronds Keller 2979 phyllitidis (L.) Sw. --Fronds Anemia --Fronds Keller 829 simplicior (Christ) Mickel Anemia --Fronds Keller & tomentosa Gatti (Sav.) Sw. 1693 Asplenium --Whole plant Keller 5629 bolansae (Baker) Sylvestre Asplenium --Whole plant Keller 5628 brosiliense Sw Asplenium --Whole plant Keller et al. scandicinum 1939 --Fronds Kaulf. Blechnum --Whole plant, Keller 3599 australe L. fronds subsp. auriculatum (Cav.) de la Sota Blechnum --Whole plant Keller 773 oustrobrasilianum de la Sota Blechnum --Whole plant Keller 1072 brasiliense Desv. Campyloneurum --Whole plant Fernandez lapathifolium et al. 98 (Poir.) Ching --Rhizomes Campyloneurum --Whole plant Keller 1081 nitidum (Kaulf.) C.Presl --Rhizomes Dicksonia --Stems Tressens sellowiana Hook. et al. 4631 --Sclerenchyma strands --Exudate of petiole Didymochlaena --Stems Keller 1106. truncatula (Sw.) J. Sm. --Whole plant Doryopteris --Whole plant Keller 1368 nobilis (Moore) C.Chr. --Petioles --Propagules --Fronds Elophoglossum Whole plant Keller 7462 pachydermum (Fee) T. Moore Equisetum --Shoots Keller 3282 giganteum L. Hemionitis --Whole plant Keller & tomentosa Gatti 1858 (Lam.) Raddi --Whole plant --Fronds Huperzia --Whole plant Keller et al. mandiocana 1941 (Raddi) Trevis. Lastreopsis --Propagules Keller 5624 effusa (Sw.) Tindale Lycopodiella --Whole plant Keller 1994 cernua (L.) Pic. Serm. Lycopodium --Whole plant Keller 49 clavatum L. Lygodium --Fronds Keller & volubile Sw Franco 5814 Microgramma --Whole plant Keller 5678 lindbergii (Kuhn) de la Sota Microgramma --Whole plant Keller 1080 squamulosa (Kaulf.) de la Sota Microgramma --Whole plant, Keller 7541 vacciniifolia fronds (Langsd. & Fisch.) Copel. Niphidium --Whole plant Keller 1889 crassifolium (L.) Lellinger --Rhizomes Ophioglossum --Whole plant Keller 3065 reticulatum L. Osmunda --Whole plant Keller 1058 regalis L. fronds --Fertile Pecluma filicula --Whole plant Keller 797 (Kaulf.) M. G. Price --Fronds Pecluma --Fronds Keller et al. pectinatiformis 3096 (Lindm.) M. G. --Whole plant Price --Rhizomes Pecluma sicca --Whole plant Tressens (Lindm.) M.G. 4942 --Fronds Price Pecluma --Whole plant Keller 5594 singeri (de la --Fronds Sota) M.G. Price Phlebodium --Rhizomes Keller & areolatum Paredes (Willd.) J. Sm. 7465 Pleopeltis --Whole plant, Keller 776 pleopeltifolia fronds (Raddi) Alston Pleopeltis --Whole plant, Keller 1891 squalida (Vell.) fronds de la Sota Pteridium --Tender fronds Keller & arachnoideum Benitez 2727 (Kaulf.) Maxon. --Fronds Pteris deflexa Tressens et Link al. 6750 Pteris --Fronds Keller 1892 denticulata Sw. Selaginella --Whole plant Tressens et muscosa Spring al. 4635 Selaginella --Whole plant Keller 1163 sulcata (Pair.) Mart. Serpocaulon --Rhizomes Keller & latipes (Langsd. Franca 5827 & Fisch.) A. R. Sm. Thelypteris --Propagules Tressens et recumbens al. 6845 (Resent.) C. F. Reed Thelypteris --Fronds Keller 2975 riograndensis (Lindm.) C. F. --Whole plant Reed Thelypteris --Propagules Keller & scabra (C. Gatti 1861 Presl)Lellinger Vittaria lineata --Whole plant Keller 2409 (L.) Sm. --Fronds FIG. 1. Species in each category of use Medicinal: 38(76%) Commercialization: 19(38%) Food: 1(2%) Crafts; 3(6%) Indicators plants; 4(8%) Magic: 15(30%) Note: Table made from pie chart.
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|Author:||Keller, Hector A.; Torres, Esteban I. Meza; Prance, Ghillean T.|
|Publication:||American Fern Journal|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2011|
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