Past and Current Survey Work

The majority of preliminary biodiversity surveys that have been done or are currently underway are being conducted as masters’ theses by MSU biology students.  Dr. Chris Kirk (University of Texas at Austin) and his students conducting paleontological research at DDRS have recovered vertebrate fossils from several localities in the Devil’s Graveyard Formation.  These collecting trips have yielded one of the best preserved late Uintan faunas known from North America. The omomyoid primate Diablomomys dalquesti was described in 2008 on the basis of fossils recovered from the DDRS (Williams and Kirk, Journal of Human Evolution, 55:927).  Scientific descriptions of several new primate species and a new genus of amphisbaenian (worm lizard) are currently being prepared.

Based on initial surveys of invertebrate fauna, several species are new to science.  A preliminary survey of ground dwelling spiders at DDRS using pitfall traps yielded 1,326 specimens.  They were collected from two habitat-types, one being typical desert pavement/shrubland and the other in the floodplain of Alamo de Cesario Creek.  The specimens included 66 species distributed in 46 genera and 24 families (Broussard, 2002; Broussard and Horner, 2006).  Several species are new to science (Platnick and Horner, 2007), and one is likely a new family to science.  These specimens are currently being evaluated by Dr. Norman Platnick and his staff at the American Museum of Natural History.  They appear to belong to a new family or at least one not known from the New World.

A total of 994 cursorial coleopterans were collected at DDRS using pitfall trapping from three habitat-types (Middleton, et al, 2007).  This sample included 53 species from three taxa, Carabidae, Scarabaeoidea, and Tenebrionoidea.

During three 12-month surveys for aquatic insects from Alamo Spring, a freshwater pool, and some ephemeral streams, Hamilton (2000), Weger (in progress), and Mahibir (in progress) have identified more than 57 genera in 32 families and 8 orders.  In addition to the above organized studies, preliminary lists include 25 butterfly species, 6 species of dragonflies and 14 species of herps.

Killion’s (2005) 26-month floral survey of a 10,000 m2 plot yielded 68 identified species from 29 families.  The Chihuahuan Desert indicator species Lechuguilla (Agave lechuguilla) and Tarbush (Florensia cernua) as well as Creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) and Viscid Acacia (Acacia neovernicosa) were abundant. Flora of the canyon, spring, and intermittent streambed habitats include Willow (Salix gooddingii), Cottonwood (Populus fremontii), Walnut (Juglans major and J. microcarpa), Oak (Quercus grisea), Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis), Mexican Buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa), Four-wing Saltbush (Atriplex canescens), and Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata).  Cook (CO-PI) has collected an unidentified Polemoniaceae that may be a species new to science. L. Alan Prather at the Michigan State University herbarium is currently examining it.

To date, 89 species of birds have been sighted (Holbert, in progress) including:  Common Raven, Turkey Vulture, four species of Wrens, Golden Eagle, Spotted and Canyon Towhee, Doves (White-winged and Mourning), Scott’s Oriole, Say’s Phoebe, Black-throated Sparrow, Western Kingbird, Northern Waterthrush, four Warblers, Scaled Quail, House Finch, Great Blue Heron, Pyrrhuloxia, Cardinal, Barn Swallow, Summer Tanager, Black-throated and Chipping Sparrows, Loggerhead Shrike, Mockingbird, Roadrunner, Curve-billed Thrasher, etc.

The following are native mammals collected, observed or identified by tracks: Seven species of bats (Myotis yumanensis, M. californicus, M. thysanodes, Pipistrellus hesperus, Eptesicus fuscus, Antrozous pallidus, Tadarida brasiliensis); Two species of squirrels, the antelope (Ammospermophilus interpres) and the rock (Otospermophilus variegatus); One species of gopher (Thomomys bottae); Three species of pocket mice (Perognathus flavus, Chaetodipus penicillatus, C. nelsoni); One species of kangaroo rat (Dipodomys merriami); Two species of harvest mice (Reithrodontomys fulvescens, R. megalotis); Three species of white-footed mice (Peromyscus pectoralis, P. boylii, P. eremicus); Two species of lagomorphs, cottontail (Sylvilagus auduboni) and jackrabbit (Lepus californicus); Four species of ungulate, collard peccary (Tayassu tajacu), desert mule deer, (Odocoileus hemionus) aoudad or Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia), and wild burro (Equus asinus); Six species of carnivores, mountain lion (Puma concolor), raccoon (Procyon lotor), ring-tailed cat (Bassariscus astutus), bobcat (Lynx rufus), kit fox (Vulpes macrotis), coyote (Canis latrans).  The majority of these have representative voucher specimens in the MSU mammal collection.

Future Surveys - The DDRS Advisory Committee invites geologists to conduct geological studies and biologists to conduct biodiversity studies at the station. For guidelines and format of conducting research at DDRS please visit the Research Guidelines page.