Painted Desert

Painted Desert

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Creature feature

There are many creatures here in the park. A list of the particularly deserty ones that I have seen:

Common lesser earless lizard
Common side-blotched lizard
Plateau lizard
Greater short-horned lizard
Plateau striped whiptail
Eastern collared lizard
Gophersnake
Roadrunner
Pronghorn
Mule deer
Desert cottontail
Jackrabbit
Coyote
Prairie dog
Antelope ground squirrel
Raven
Locust
Solfugid
Dung beetle

No rattlesnakes or scorpions so far. Some pictures of the creatures…

Plateau lizard:



We got one of these in the apartment once. It couldn't run on the linoleum very well. It looked like it was swimming in place. Here is a movie of Katie trying to catch it:


Greater short-horned lizard (AKA horny toad):



Jackrabbit:


Antelope ground squirrels:


Solfugid:


For those of you screaming horrified questions at your computer screen right now, a solfugid is an arthropod that is not a scorpion or a spider, though it has some things in common with those. They are also known as solpugids, and are sometimes called "wind scorpions" or, in barely-true emails that have been forwarded all over the web, "camel spiders," though they don't get as big here as they do in Iraq. They are fast runners and they run after their prey and catch it. We get one running in under the screen doors every other night here in the apartment.

This brings us to the most notable desert dweller out here, which is the humble ant. There are ants EVERYWHERE here. Billions of them. Small black ants, small brown ants, big black ants, big red ants, et cetera. I don't know what on earth they eat. This is sort of a spare ecosystem, there is not a lot of biomass compared to a forest. But I probably step on a hundred of them on my 5 minute walk from the apartment to the office each morning. And when I step on them their buddies come surround their corpses. Maybe that's what they eat. They have trails everywhere around the complex here. If you look close you can see the ants in this trail, which has been active for a couple months:


Here is an industrious ant carrying away a piece of potato chip from my lunch:



And it was probably ants that cleaned up this piece of creature that we found today:


It may be a bobcat skull, we took it back to the lab for comparative anatomy purposes, so we can study the bones.
Still haven't decided where we'll go this weekend... maybe Utah!

7 comments:

Mom said...

Wow, I really liked the video of Katie trying to catch the creature.

I'm amazed at how you keep on coming up with such a variety of topics to write about.

I'm printing out all of these postings and I give them to Gram and Pop to read. They are REALLY enjoying them.

Love,

Mom

Miss Audrey Lee said...
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Miss Audrey Lee said...

Your plateau lizard looks a lot like the fence lizards here in eastern NC. Maybe they migrated straight down I-40! You can see a picture of one from my May 9th post on my blog.

Spinning Girl said...

I love solfuginds; I have been obsessed with them ever since I saw a TV segment on a really fast-moving one in the desert out East somewhere.

Spinning Girl said...

suer wish I could spell.

Weary Hag said...
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Weary Hag said...

I've been busier than a multi-vaginal hooker the past few weeks. Sorry for not stopping in.

I wish it was all good and fun stuff but some of it was just 'gots ta finally git r done' junk.

Really missing you and enjoying the heck out of your journaling.

Love your fantasy stories, but am thinking there is a real place for you in the non-fiction community as well.

Solfugid.
Hmph.

When I lived in LVNV we had small scorpions and one bit my beagle on the tip of her nose when she got too curious about the yucca it was hiding under.

Solfugid.
I'm trying to like the word, but can't find a way.