Thursday, November 17, 2022

Using Hydrax Latrines to Study Climate Change in the Long Term

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity, Nature of Science, History of Science, Climate Change, Global Change

Ed Hessler 

Hydrax latrines are the research focus of paleoecologist Lynne Quick in the Cape Fold Belt mountains of South Africa. See the Wiki entry for information about the discipline known as paleoecology.

Hydrax are known to use the same spot as latrines for "tens of thousands of years." Brian Chase who leads the research team extracted "a wedge (from a midden - a layered refuse heap) that we brought back to the lab for analysis."

The team will determine the age of the midden layers, learn what hydraxes have eaten over time (clues for climate change), charcoal (occurrence of wildfires, and "fungal spores which can reveal which animals were nearby."  

The aim of the research is to "have a much more nuanced and detailed view of climate change in southern Africa."

This is a short read from the journal Nature's "Where I Work" series. It includes  a photograph of Dr. Quick in the field - rugged terrain!

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