March 22nd, 2009

A Vast Planted Garden

In the desert far outside Tucson you might be lucky enough to spot a Kangaroo Rat. It’s a cute little thing that looks more like a mouse than a rat, but it’s neither. He belongs to a different order of the rodent family and has twenty teeth, whereas mice and rats have sixteen. But he has the same soft brown fur, beady little eyes. At the end of his tail, there’s a dark tuft of hair, like a lion’s.

His most interesting feature, though, is that he never drinks water. He instead eats seeds that provide starch, a hydrocarbon containing hydrogen. Oxygen is abundant in the atmosphere. This resourceful animal puts them together. Aitch two oh. The tuft on his tail serves as a rudder, helps him to make quick movements to avoid capture by hawks or other predators. If you’d clip off the end of his tail, he wouldn’t be as evasive.

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