Merriam life zones

Pierre A Plauzoles sphinxangelorum at
Sun Sep 9 00:57:16 EDT 2001

"Grkovich, Alex" wrote:

> Maybe that is true, but that still is no reason to ignore the concept as if
> it doesn't exist. Ignoring the concept has resulted in an obvious ignorance
> in many many people as to why some species do or do not range occur in a
> given area.
> Here is perhaps a very good example. Anyone who has lived in the northeast
> has heard about "Water Moccasins" swimming in the swamps and waters of
> southern New England. Just last Monday there was a very large Northern Water
> Snake lying with a large catfish in its mouth by the water's edge at the
> Ashley Reservoir, Holyoke, MA. I got asked by at least 6 people as to
> whether it was a moccasin or whether it had venom. How easy it would be to
> understand that the Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus) is a snake of the
> Lower Austral Zone (an examination of the species range reveals this fact)
> and that as such it could opt possibly be found in the north (unless someone
> would be dumb enough to introduce them). In 20 years living in New England I
> have had to inform numerous people of this fact, including fisherman,
> hunters, people who routinely hike, etc.  I once had to inform a local park
> ranger and several times have informed individuals involved in conservation
> up here that, don't worry,  they are not found here.
> I'm sorry but I would have to expect people to be more knowledgeable.

good example of just the opposite was found in the Sacramento/San Joaquin Rivers
Delta of northern California a number of years ago -- so I have heard.  Someone
had found a large crocodilian (how many individuals, I don't recall, but it was
either a crococdile or an alligator) in some of the delta's swampier areas (it
has been quite a while, and I don't recall the details), and the thought was
that the species might even be breeding in the area.  While this may be a very
far-fetched idea, consider the summer temperatures: they do reach upwards of
100F regularly and often over 110F, a fact that 1/ appeared to suit the
"beastie" just fine, 2/ makes one think twice about rejecting the idea out of
hand, and 3/ would definitely keep one on the lookout for strange movement in
the water.  :-)

Pierre A Plauzoles
sphinxangelorum at

> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Kenelm Philip [SMTP:fnkwp at]
> > Sent: Wednesday, September 05, 2001 4:37 PM
> > To:   leps-l at
> > Subject:      Merriam life zones
> >
> >
> >       There is a reason why the Merriam life zones that Klots made such
> > good use of are not being mentioned as much these days. The basic concept
> > of 'climax vegetation' is no longer so firmly in place as it once was,
> > and Merriam's zones do not play a major role in modern ecology. The
> > situation appears to be a bit more complex...
> >
> >                                                       Ken Philip
> > fnkwp at
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
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