A Desert Calling: Life in a Forbidding Landscape by Michael A. Mares

By Michael A. Mares

For many people the notice "desert" inspires photos of barren barren region, large, dry stretches inimical to lifestyles. yet for an outstanding array of creatures, even perhaps extra abundant than those that inhabit tropical rainforests, the barren region is a haven and a house. go back and forth with Michael Mares into the deserts of Argentina, Iran, Egypt, and the yank Southwest and you'll come across a wealthy and noteworthy number of those small, tenacious animals, lots of them first came upon by means of Mares in parts by no means prior to studied. Accompanying Mares on his forays into those adversarial habitats, we realize the amazing behavioral, physiological, and ecological variations that experience allowed such little-known species of rodents, bats, and different small mammals to persist in an arid international. whilst, we see firsthand the perils and pitfalls that look ahead to biologists who enterprise into the sphere to enquire new habitats, realize new species, and upload to our wisdom of the variety of lifestyles. full of the seductions and trials that such adventures entail, A barren region Calling gives an intimate realizing of the biologist's vocation. As he astonishes us with the variety and diversity of information to be got in the course of the made up our minds research of little-known habitats, Mares opens a window on his personal unusual lifestyles, in addition to at the unusual lifetime of the distant and mysterious corners of our planet. (20020401)

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The tail is not swished from side to side, but is tapped against the back, making a small thumping noise. Ground squirrels master the desert differently than do the kangaroo rats and their relatives or the field mice and woodrats. Kangaroo rats survive in the desert indefinitely without having access to free water. They do this by minimizing water loss at all levels and by using metabolic water (the water that results from the breakdown of the food contained in seeds) to meet their water needs. They also venture out of their burrows only in the cool desert evening.

As little as half an ounce can kill a person within minutes. Oxalic acid content notwithstanding, woodrats have the ability to eat as much cactus as they like. Half their diet consists of cactus. They thrive on it. The physiological mechanisms involved are not clear, but the fact that they feed on cacti is well known and was observed long ago by many early naturalists. Woodrats can also climb into and out of the thorny cholla, a feat few other animals can accomplish. When a woodrat is pierced by a spine, which happens occasionally, the animal calmly removes it.

But the stick nests offer refuge to many species, including vertebrates, such as the zebra-tailed lizard, tree frogs, voles, skunks, rabbits, the insectivorous desert shrew (the smallest desert mammal, at one-seventh of an ounce, an insect-sized mammal), and a wide variety of invertebrates, including spiders and scorpions. Like the saltbush-eating kangaroo rat of the Great Basin desert, the several species of cactus-eating woodrats of the hot deserts of the United States (at least one species occurs in each of the Sonoran, Mojave, and Chihuahuan deserts) are marvels of desert adaptation.

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