Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Desert Calling by Michael Mares ****

Author Mares studies desert mammals. A Desert Calling by Michael Mares is a memoir of his field work, mostly in Argentina, but including some forays to other deserts in South America, the eastern Sahara, and Iran.

Much of the book was about identifying desert mammals and the features that enabled them to survive, such kidney adaptations to minimize water loss and strategies to live on salt bushes and high salinity water.

The memoir also included anecdotes, such as the time when the scientists crossed paths with a huckster selling small candies as protection from poisonous snakes. The con man demonstrated the power of these pill using a non-poisonous snake ... evidently the native population could not distinguish harmless snakes from dangerous ones. (Seems incredible, doesn't it?) The scientists presented the the showman with a truly deadly snake. He begged off a demonstration, but after a few encounters with the scientists, he was never seen again.

In the midst of stories of desert hardships and discoveries of new genera and species, were hidden gems of wisdom:
...the problem with ignorance. You do not know what you are doing, but you have a good reason for doing the wrong thing.
I've known lots of people with this problem: hyperlogical and wrong. Some times this even describes me.

Overall, this was a fascinating mixture of desert adventure and small mammal evolution.

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