National Geographic : 1898 Aug
PAPAG UERIA leys the deep-rooted mesquite dots the surface in similitude of scattered and ill-kept orchards, or gathers with a dozen other trees in scraggy forests along permanent waterways, while mon strous bizarre cacti haunt the foothills and the lower slopes, and scattered grass-blades faintly tinge the acres intervening between cacti and mesquites. The plant forms abound in pulpy struc tures and impervious rinds for conserving moisture, even more than in thorns and other protective devices; for in this hard region the struggle for existence is not so much between organism and organism as between organism and environment, and the organisms persist less by the multiplication of progeny than by the prolongation of individual life. Animal life, in insect, rep tile, bird, and mammal, occurs in much the same proportion to vegetal life as in humid regions, but is more largely nocturnal and crepuscular. Ants of many kinds (including the ingenious and successful farmer ant), wasps, flies, and other insects follow the sparse flora. Gaudy and swift efts, as well as somber and sluggish lizards, accompany the insects, while ground-squirrels and field-mice contribute a quota of vitality. In the more humid valleys, and on the mountain sides moistened by drainage from above, rabbits, quail, deer, and other herbivorous and graminiv orous things collect in limited numbers, while serpents find sub sistence in the more fertile spots; and over the hills, valleys, and plains on which lower life prevails the coyote on the land, and hawks, owls, and eagles in the air, are not wanting (for it is only in the western part of Papagueria, where the rainfall is trifling, that life is unable to hold its own). Yet, as among plants, the struggle of animal life against inorganic nature and alien organ isms is severe, and an exceptional number of the animate things are armed with mandibles, stings, fangs, talons, poison glands, and other protective devices. The distribution of life conforms to the distribution of water; it is most abundant over the rugged summits and rocky slopes of the high Sierra, as well as along the gulches and gorges-barrancas of the local vernacular-of the foot slopes and the broad sand washes or arroyas of the narrower valleys; it is less abundant on the foothills and over the lower ranges, where the storms are feebler and rarer; it is still more meager over the broad intermontane valleys constituting the greater part of Papagueria ; but it is only in the western portion of the district, where clouds rarely gather and whither streams never flow, that the shifting sands and black-burned scorie of dead volcanoes (the " mal-pais" of the Mexicans) are utterly barren.