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Life Science


The Chihuahuan Desert supports numerous animal species, ranging from tiny bacteria to large mammals, such as the mule deer.

Many of these species are conspicuous, but others, such as the microorganisms, are not so obvious. This, however, does not make them any less interesting.

little critters image

Rainfall in the Chihuahuan Desert varies from 7.8 to nearly 12 inches, so it is not surprising that most of the desert organisms have evolved ways to cope with the scarcity of water. The most extreme drought-avoiders grow and reproduce only during the brief periods of rain. They can remain dormant for years of drought as desiccation-resistant seeds or eggs.

The phenomenon of succession can be studied directly in the laboratory using rehydrated cultures of these "sleeping" short-lived microorganisms. The principles obtained from such study may provide a basis for understanding succession under natural conditions. The number of species involved in such laboratory cultures is rather limited, greatly simplifying the task of studying the ensuing changes.