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Desert Diary


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Scientists are still struggling to find out what global warming means in terms of climatic and biologic changes. Unfortunately, the natural world is so complex that most findings come in bits and pieces. A recent study, for example, looked at the success of a group of parasitic wasps that lay their eggs in caterpillars. To investigate the effects of global warming, biologists looked at a number of different climatic regimes in different geographic regions. Some are climatically quite stable, with little change through time; others mimic an expected result of warming: greater variability from year to year.

The findings suggest that the parasites will become less effective in controlling caterpillar numbers as the world warms. The uncertainty arises in part from the lack of a similar study regarding the caterpillars. Would different species become more susceptible with warming? Or less susceptible? Or would there be no change? Would the caterpillars, the wasps, or both change their geographic ranges, and if so, how would this affect the findings? As often observed, science is great fun, but it's seldom simple!
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.