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Desert Diary
Biology/Good Looks


Looks are only skin deep, as the old saying goes. Be that as it may, good looks may be the salvation of many an endangered animal, while the plain and the ugly are doomed to extinction. Simply put, not all living things are equally valued by us, even when we filter out the noxious types such as mosquitos and lice. In an entirely rational world, two kinds of innocent creatures should be considered equally important to save. But are they? Not hardly.

The dramatic—think Gray Wolf or Bald Eagle; the soft, cuddly, and comical, such as the Greater Panda; and the feathered, such as the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, are treasured. But what about those without charisma? Take Ashmunella todseni, for example. Have you seen any "Save the Snail" campaign mounted for this unassuming mollusk? After all, it survives only in two canyons of the Organ Mountains of southern New Mexico. Yet, maybe there's a smidgen of hope for rationality, for we are trying to save the Socorro Sowbug, struggling to survive in its new habitat—an abandoned bathhouse.
pen and ink

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.