Image by @joelsartore | Pocket gophers like this one at @cedar.point.biological.station are the earthmovers of the landscape, their industrious burrowing and tunneling turns over the prairie soils to enable other plants and animals to exist that could not otherwise survive without these rodents. Their burrows provide habitat for hundreds of associated animal species including beetles, flies, toads, snakes, mites, and other rodents. Plants like sunflowers and other annual plants come up in the areas that gophers have been tilling or "working". These animals can run backwards or forwards in their burrow systems at about the same speed, using their sparsely-haired tail as a rear sensor. Their fur-lined cheek pouches are used to store food on harvesting expeditions in lateral burrows and the food is taken back to specially dug branches of the burrow system and kept for later. Females usually have from 2 to 4 babies that are kicked out of the mother’s burrow system as soon as they are weaned. Most pocket gophers are solitary and do not enjoy company.
Studying animals like the gopher, the biologists at @cedar.point.biological.station, a field research facility and experiential classroom located in western Nebraska, are currently working to identify all parasites in all mammalian hosts on the Cedar Point Biological Station using both morphology and molecules. After about 5 years of collecting, they are now able to identify most species of parasites in a mammal using a single fecal pellet from a living animal. Soon they'll be able to get a DNA sequence from each species for the identification of both the host and the parasites! #cedarpointbiologicalstation