Slimy…. yet satisfying!




Visitors to southern Arizona sometimes compare the landscape to Africa, with saguaros substituted for elephants. It may not surprise them to learn that some of the grass in the foreground of this photo was actually introduced from Africa.


A video I captured in Saguaro National Park of a vicious hunter eating its prey alive reminded me of Africa for a different reason:


Celeste Patterson, a field assistant last summer, has been analyzing videos from motion-detecting cameras in Saguaro National Park East we took last September to determine differences in animal richness between mountain ranges and whether it is affected by grass invasions. She pointed out these videos yesterday.

We have tentatively identified the hunter as Harris’s antelope squirrel (Ammospermophilus harrisii), and the insect larva has not been identified. These antelope squirrels were noisy and prominent during the monsoon season, chirping continuously from exposed, rocky outcroppings. We have plenty of videos of them eating the sterilized millet seeds with which we baited cameras, and I was interested to read in Hoffmeister’s Mammals of Arizona text that although they eat primarily fruit and vegetation, with plenty of insects and meat when they can steal it from baited traps, one was even recorded to have killed and partially eaten a pocket mouse (one of the dancing kind) when they were left in a cage together!

To learn more about how small mammals interact with grass, you can attend a talk I’m giving April 8 at 12:30pm in BioSciences West 208 on the UA Campus. (You’ll also get to hear from Kea Skate about the evolution of division of labor!)

To learn more about the differences in animals between Saguaro National Park East (Rincon Mountains) and West (Tucson Mountains), check out Celeste’s poster at the EEB Undergraduate Poster Session from 1-3pm on April 16, on the north side of BioSciences West.

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