The WyoBio Minute

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Episode 10: Pack Rats

Original Air Date: 03/08/18 06:16:pm

Image: Tgbraden (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

What do pack rats and botanists have in common? Both collect plants, and both have played important roles in understanding what the vegetation of Wyoming was like in the past. Pack rats build nests deep within rocky structures, and collect random items around their home, hence the name pack rat. A nest may be used for thousands of years. Pack rats maintain a separate latrine. In the latrine, scat and plant fragments become cemented together with dried urine, becoming deep and layered. For botanists willing to put up with the smell, these latrines are treasure troves of information. Abandoned nests can remain intact for up to 40,000 years becoming historical records. The layers are easily dated using radiocarbon methods. The plant fragments preserved by the urine provide a chronological record allowing botanists to reconstruct the vegetation of Wyoming’s past. With your WyoBio Minute I am Kenna Oyen,