Focus on the Sonoran Desert: Fiddler crabs


As we head deeper into the most miserable of the Sonoran Desert’s five seasons, lend me your eyeballs (and your ears) and let me renew your interest in this unique region.

For the past 3 weeks, I served as a graduate teaching assistant for University of Arizona’s field course on the Sonoran Desert. At the same time, I was drafting and revising a manuscript with collaborators for a special journal issue on species interactions in the region. It has been a fantastic time to step back from my narrower research questions to consider the broader context of the environment in which interactions occur.

Let me say first of all that the five seasons of the Sonoran Desert include summer monsoons, autumn, winter, spring, and the arid foresummer. Guess which one we are experiencing now in Tucson!

The key to much of the moisture and diversity in this subtropical, semi-arid region is the Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez). It is home to a unique endemic porpoise which that may soon be extinct, a strong fishing culture that is slowly learning to fish more sustainably, inspiring researchers and educators at CEDO Intercultural, and a literary and ecological legacy from the trip that John Steinbeck and his friend Ed Ricketts took in the 1940’s. It is also the home to several species of fiddler crabs, which provide endless entertainment and substantial numbers ready volunteers for research projects on their behavior, morphology, and density.

Inspired by the “True Facts” videos posted by zefrank1 on YouTube that make animal diversity approachable and entertaining, we put together a tribute to those videos based on my shaky, low quality footage of fiddler crabs in the estuary:

Additional note: Stay tuned for Biosphere 2‘s renovations emphasizing the regional importance of the desert sea!

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