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By Charles F. Gritzner

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Others are sterile, their soils rendered useless by extensive deposits of salts. A vast “sea of sand” is the stereotypical image of the desert surface held by many people. This, too, is yet another desert myth. Desert floors are composed of three types of surface: reg, hammada, and erg. These terms originally described different desert conditions in the Sahara, but today they are used in reference to surface conditions throughout the world’s deserts. Reg is the most common surface, covering perhaps two-thirds to three-fourths of all desert landscapes.

Plants and animals do not arrive in a harsh environment and then adapt to its extreme conditions. Rather, they already possess traits that make survival possible before they even reach a new and more demanding environment. Think of it as an obstacle course in which each new station or activity is increasingly difficult. Very few people are able to get past all the challenges to reach the finish line. The ones who do finish were already athletic at the beginning—they didn’t become more skilled as the course went on.

First, a well was drilled in their settlement that provided a reliable supply of freshwater. Women no longer had to spend much of their day fetching water from miles away. With their newly gained easy access to water, the Seris were taught how to irrigate and raise crops. Then an electrical generator was installed to provide light and refrigeration to preserve turtle meat. To reduce the Seris’ isolation from the rest of the world, an improved road was built that linked their settlement to Hermosillo, Sonora’s capital city located about 75 miles (121 kilometers) inland.

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