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Desert Diary
Ecology/Simple Times


There's an old saying that "ignorance is bliss". Of course, there's another old saying that "if you think a little bit of knowledge is dangerous, try ignorance". Nevertheless, ignorance often is less work than knowing a bit more. Scientists find that with only a few pieces of data, things look really simple—but the more data they have, the less simple things become!

Back in the earlier part of the last century, when people were realizing how much plants and animals in the Southwest had been affected by ice-age climates, it was easy to assume that biological communities moved bodily up and down the mountains as climates warmed or cooled. And then paleontologists had to go and spoil that simple picture. Fossils of animals that today have separate geographic ranges were recovered together, and assemblages similar to today's often lacked key members. It slowly dawned on people that membership in a given biological community was not set in stone. Species drifted in and out according to their own needs and limitations. Ah, for the good old, simple days!
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.