By Yvonne Baskin

Below floor: How Creatures Of dust and grime form Our international makes a speciality of soil and the creatures which evolve from there to form our lives: from worms in a Minnesota woodland that are making the soil too wealthy for wildflowers to mud-dwelling animals at the ocean flooring, and soil microbes affecting either desert parts and gardens. Her first-person exploration finds a teaming, brilliant global underfoot.

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Extra resources for Under Ground: How Creatures of Mud and Dirt Shape Our World

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I think that at one time Antarctica was extremely diverse, just like the northern and southern hemispheres. Then it moved down here where it got colder. But I think it got dry first and then cold. ’ But I think the opposite is true. I think what really happens is that they do what nematodes in deserts in California do. And it turns out that if you’re able to dehydrate yourself in order to survive in a desert, you don’t care what the temperature is. ” Adams and Wall are building a collection of DNA from nematode populations across Antarctica, from sites with different geologic histories and soils and varying degrees of isolation.

000-000 4/15/05 9:01 AM Page 37 cloud comes over, boom, the soil temperature can drop and the whole system shuts off. ” The drastic drop in Scottnema populations has given the team an unexpected opportunity to see whether the changing fortunes of this dominant consumer will have a detectable impact on the flow of energy and nutrients through the dry valley food web. Field tests using isotope-labeled carbon have already shown that Scottnema is responsible for a disproportionate share of the CO2 exhalation from these soils.

That’s the reason for the dust traps at each field site. But Adams tells us he thinks wind dispersal of nematodes could occur on a much larger scale. “The circumpolar winds could act just like a big toilet bowl, swirling them around the continent,” he says, clearly peeved by the prospect because it bodes relatively uniform genetics. Barrett sees it in another light: “It may not be an interesting result for an evolutionary biologist if they’re all genetically identical, but for an ecologist it’s great.

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