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Desert Diary


We humans seemingly have an intrinsic arrogance that insists we're the culmination of everything. Think of the reaction to downgrading the earth from being the center of the universe; even—gasp!—that we circle the sun rather than everything revolving around us. Then Darwin struck another blow to the ego, showing that we evolved from what we insist on calling "lower animals". However, some people have taken comfort in knowing that, surely, mammals are the most advanced and successful form of life ever to appear.

Well, of course, we can argue that even though bacteria have been successful for several billion years longer than mammals, they can't really be considered advanced forms of life. But if we look at our desert, or almost any other terrestrial place on earth, are we really the most successful? Consider our insects, who not only outnumber mammals immeasurably in terms of numbers of individuals, but whose kinds outnumber us by many orders of magnitude. Of course, I know the reaction I'll get to this little essay: namely, "Go away and stop bugging me!"
pen and ink


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.

Praying Mantis

A Praying Mantis. Photograph by Gary M. Stolz, courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.