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April 28, 2017
Q. Iran's Lut Desert is one of the hottest places on Earth. In 2005, a satellite measurement of ground surface temperature set a record at 159.3 degrees. About the size of West Virginia, the desert is mostly devoid of plant life yet sustains a vibrant ecosystem including insects, reptiles and desert foxes. How does the food web hold together without plants?
A. “Dead birds are a frequent sighting in the desert,” reports Richard Stone in Science magazine. Researchers hypothesize that “migratory birds stray into the Lut and, overcome by the intense heat, fall from the sky like manna, forming the base of a food web.” This idea was bolstered by a recent expedition that found scavenged remains of dozens of migratory birds of various species.
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