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Desert Diary
Mammals/Underground Life


Want to live underground? Well, assuming you want to go native, there are a few attributes you need to cultivate.

First of all, your eyes and ears are much too big, ready-made for collecting dirt—please make them smaller. Now it's cool underground, so grow a fur coat—but not too long, so it won't become matted with damp dirt. Now, about your tail. Keep it short enough to hold straight out behind you and sensitive to touch. After all, if you're racing backwards down a tunnel, it's nice to know when a corner pops up. Oh, and your teeth—they aren't buck enough. How can you use them to clip roots and dislodge pebbles during tunnel construction? And grow some longer, sturdier nails and broader hands while you're at it. You're not being supplied with shovels and picks, you know. While you're doing all of this, your breathing needs a bit of attention. Ventilation's lousy, and carbon dioxide levels build up pretty high.

Agreeable to all of this? Then, congratulations. You'll make a lovely gopher.
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.

Pocket Gopher

Yellow-faced Pocket Gopher, Cratogeomys castanops (preserved specimen).



Findley, J. S. 1987. The natural history of New Mexican mammals. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 164 pp.

Web Resources

Mammals of Texas Online