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Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
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Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden

Packrat Midden. A "midden" or "midden pile" is a fancy name for a trash heap. When ancient people made middens, they left behind things for archaeologists to dig through. From the trash, archaeologists determine how the ancients lived, what they used for tools, and what they ate. When packrats (specifically Desert Woodrats) make midden piles, which are mostly solidified urine, feces, plant material, and bones, biologists can dig through the midden to determine the same things.

Scientists use packrat middens these days to study climate change by excavating the middens and identifying plant fragments in the layers. Different species of plants grow under different climate conditions, so using the plants and carbon-14 dating, scientists determine when the plants were alive, and thereby date the changes in climate. Using midden piles from the Las Vegas area, biologists have determined that much of our desert was covered with singleleaf pinyon pines and Utah juniper trees at the end of the last ice age (about 10,000 years ago). So, take a look at the enormous midden and contemplate its age, but leave it alone, and thank the packrats for their contribution to our knowledge of the changing desert ecosystem.

Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
This enormous midden is on a wall inside a cave
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
enormous midden is on a wall inside a cave
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Enormous midden is on a wall inside a cave
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Close-up of enormous midden: note stick and seeds
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Packrat urine seeping out of a crack
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Dried packrat urine
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Dried packrat urine
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Dried packrat urine
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Packrat midden in holes along rock wall
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Solidified packrat midden
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Unconsolidated packrat debris
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Midden back in little cave
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Close-up of midden back in little cave
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Notice layers in midden
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Notice layers in midden
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Notice layers in midden
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Notice layers in midden
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Unconsolidated packrat debris
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Unconsolidated packrat debris
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Unconsolidated packrat debris; notice mix of sticks and poop
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Notice layers in midden in little cave
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Notice layers in midden in little cave
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Packrat midden dripping out of a crack in the rock wall
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Packrat midden dripping out of a crack in the rock wall
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Unconsolidated packrat debris under overhang
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Unconsolidated packrat debris under overhang
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Notice layers in midden
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida) Midden
Close-up of layers in midden

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 141014

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