FIELD GUIDES: Baja's Bounty

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Science  02 Mar 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5509, pp. 1669
DOI: 10.1126/science.291.5509.1669a

Six million years ago, colliding tectonic plates tore a strip of land from what is now northwest Mexico and shoved it up into California. The result is the stark and beautiful Baja California and the Sea of Cortés, where craggy topography, erratic rains, and currents that stir up deep, nutrient-rich cold waters make for an extraordinary array of desert and marine life.

Ocean Oasis, a Web site created by the San Diego Natural History Museum for a film playing in giant-screen theaters this year, offers an introduction to this ecologically rich corner of Mexico. A field guide describes the region's geologic history and its flora and fauna, ranging from the kangaroo rat, prickly-pear cactus, and mangroves to seahorses, sardines, and migrating humpback whales. There's also a teaching guide (for grades 4–8) and a glossary. Biologists may find interesting the history of conservation in Baja, which includes lobbying by aviator Charles Lindbergh in the early 1970s and recent efforts to save the endangered vaquita porpoise.

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