Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Ultimate Desert Survivor

I'm relatively new to the desert, living here only about seven years. My life has been relatively straightforward: I have a truck so I can go get supplies and visit friends, I have a roof over my head that shelters me from the elements, and I can put on different clothes depending on what the weather is like and the need for heels or waders.

Now let me introduce you to a really cool critter that has been living here for thousands of years and manages just fine without any of the things I consider the necessities. This little guy is called a springsnail. Okay, I admit one particular springsnail has not been alive for thousands of years, but descendants of those springsnails have stayed in the same place for that amount of time. I bet you can guess where springsnails live: in a spring (at least most of the time). Not any old spring will do, it has to be the right temperature, with the right vegetation, and the right water chemistry. They are really tiny, so tiny that the different species can only be identified under a high-powered microscope.

For those of you wanting to sink your teeth into something a little more scientific, the genus name is Pyrgulopsis, and there are numerous species. They are most prevalent in the Great Basin region. That in a way is kind of funny, because the Great Basin is mostly a high desert, which means that it doesn't get much water. The water that is around is usually isolated and thus the springsnails in some cases have been isolated for thousands of years. Over this long time period, some populations have become so adapted to the specific water body they live in that they have become a new species. 

Consider yourself lucky if you ever get to meet a springsnail. Sure, they're tiny and relatively uncharismatic (they aren't furry, big, or make interesting sounds), but they do show that the place where they live has potentially been there for thousands of years since the last time it was quite a bit wetter and the Great Basin desert wasn't a desert. And since the springsnails don't move around, don't have much shelter except whatever vegetation is growing there, and only have one outfit, their shell, I'd say that they have done amazingly well to survive in the harsh desert climate.

1 comment:

Tina said...

you are a very interesting person, with a really cute kid. And where I come from Nature Boy is a wrestler. WWF Rick Flair. So you might wanna rethink that name LOL. WOOOOO! is Rick Flairs signature yell.

I was keywording photos and found you by accident, trying to identify a plant. Enjoyed reading your blog.


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