Centennial Museum gecko logo

Desert Diary


Ever walk around a university campus? Architects spend hours making sure walkways are esthetically pleasing and just so—and what do we see? Shortcuts everywhere! Humans, like most other mammals, have a knack of finding the least demanding pathway to get from here to there.

Grounds keepers may fume about the laziness of students, but evolutionarily, it makes good sense. Traveling takes energy and energy requires food. Too often, in these days of relative wealth, we forget that the next meal has almost always been an item of concern to beast and man alike.

Many of the roadways now traversing the Chihuahuan Desert and its mountains are following the old pathways pioneered by wild animals concerned with the shortest, least energy-burning routes between water holes or safe havens. Later, before the wheel or the beast of burden, human travelers shared the same routes on foot. With few exceptions, the modern builders of highways found the way already mapped out, and we may, at times, be following in the coyote's footprints more literally than we realize.
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.



Web Resources

The Indian Trails