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Dr. Dean W. Blinn

Montezuma Well

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Montezuma Well contains several plants and animals that are only found in its unique environment. Scientists think that birds and possibly flying insects brought some of these small creatures, or at least their ancestors, to the Well. As the waterfowl traveled across the desert, they would stop at various water spots to drink and eat. At each stop, the birds would deposit creatures and/or trap more new organisms in their feathers and webbed feet to be transported to their new destinations. Eventually, when the ducks visited Montezuma Well, some of the small creatures would be deposited in their new home. If they were tolerant of their new environment, they would survive, if not, they would remain dormant or die! This dispersion process of aquatic organisms is still going on today in Montezuma Well with the annual visits of American widgeons, coots, mallards, ruddy ducks, cinnamon teal, gadwalls, and the occasional Canadian goose. These waterfowl make Montezuma Well their winter home between November and April of each year and then migrate to their summer home in the North.

Today in Montezuma Well we find several aquatic animals that have adapted to the unusual conditions of the Well. The proposed food chain in Montezuma Well is illustrated below.

Some of the small aquatic plants (called algae), many of which could fit on the tip of a pin, float in the water and use light energy and the rich supply of dissolved carbon dioxide to manufacture foor. These algae in turn serve as food for the numerous shrimp-like animals called amphipods that are less than one-eighth of an inch long. The unique amphipods have developed small food collecting hairs to trap the microscopic plants floating in the water.

Blood sucking leeches are also abundant in the aquatic vegetation. They probably feed on the turtles and muskrats in the Well. The most abundant species of leech in the Well does not suck blood, but has tiny sensory hairs all over their 2-inch long body which enable them to find, and in one big gulp, eat the amphipods in the total darkness of night. Occasionally, the always hungry water scorpion will also creep out at night to capture the shrimp-like creatures. There are no fish found in the Well because of the high concentrations of carbon dioxide released from bottom springs, however, turtles seem to thrive in the environment.

Birth of the Well Montezuma Well Day in the Well