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Desert Diary


Mammalogists study mammals, and it's really easy to get their goat, so to speak. This can be fun, but there's one drawback—you'll almost always get a lecture in return. Sing, "Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam,...", and you're sure to hear a muttered "bison, not buffalo", followed by a treatise on differences between these very distinct animals. Or mention a "Mule Deer's horn" to your favorite zoologist. After he stops cringing, you're sure to get the $2 lecture on the differences between horns and antlers and why you should never confuse the two. Probably followed by, "Repeat after me: cattle have horns, deer have antlers".

We've a wealth of common names in the Chihuahuan Desert that are sure to set a mammalogist's teeth on edge. How about Ringtail Cat, for an animal closely related to Raccoons, or the Spanish Ratón Volador (flying mouse) for a bat, who's more closely related to us than to rodents? Just think of all the fun you can have playing with your scientist's mind and emotions!
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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.

Mountain Sheep horn and Deer Antler

Mountain Sheep (Ovis canadensis) horn and White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) antler. The horn is of a keratin protein, while antlers are bone.