Tuesday, September 30, 2008

ancient pack rat poop

Maybe I just have a thing about poop lately, but this is actually kind of cool on a few counts. First off, a little discussion about pack rats. They apparently are rather intelligent, quick, resourceful, and quite adaptive, considering how long they've been around. They're also the subjects of scientific studies. Little creatures, being picked apart (so to speak--hopefully not literally, unless they're already dead) by highly-educated human minds. We are interested in the strangest things, aren't we?

I've rarely seen the little critters around here--but let me tell you, they are definitely at home in the high desert Southwest. How do I know that for sure? Big, unmistakable piles of pack rat poop, crammed into the nooks and hollows of the rock walls. Like this:Yes, that is a pile--a wet, totally gross pile--of pack rat shit. Interestingly enough (to me, at least), I often find it very near ancient settlements. This pile is dripping from the rocks right by this handprint:
Curious, no? Well, according to my biologist friend Dave, pack rats are known to poop in the same spot their ancestors did--as in, for the last 10,000 years. So the new poop is on top of very old poop, practically fossilized by now.

The mind boggles.

So the next time you're out and about and come across one of these impressive leavings, look around for ancient corn cobs, pottery shards, and rock art. I'm sure the resourceful pack rats lived among the humans for the easy food access, and habit kept them there centuries after the people left. Guess it's better to have one toilet rather than hundreds scattered about...

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