If you’ve ever seen the 80s comedy classic “CaddyShack,” you’ll appreciate a new theory in the scientific world.
In Washington, there are fields filled with mounds of dirt eight feet tall and 30 feet wide called Mima mounds. Once mistaken for Indian burial grounds, the mysterious Mima mounds have puzzled many since they were discovered in the 1840s as settlers moved west. Believe it or not, it’s now thought that the mounds were created by generations of gophers.
(Imagine what the golf course would have looked like in “Caddyshack” if the dancing gopher made one of these mounds, Bill Murray would have had his hands full!)
The new theory was proposed in the Journal of Geomorphology using computer models to study how the mounds are formed. Since they take hundreds of years to create, 500 to 700 years in Washington alone, the computer model was able to speed up the practice, allowing scientist to test different theories.
The theory specifically named pocket gophers as the creators of this bubble-wrap-like landscape. The mounds are believed to be made due to the soil’s tendency to flood, forcing the gophers to build up to avoid drowning. Although they get as large as eight feet tall and 30 feet wide, they do not get any bigger than that.
These incredible structures are to gophers what building the great pyramids of Egypt are to humans. They took generations of work to be completed.
San Jose State University Geologist Manny Gabet told LiveScience, “What’s really cool about this is scaled by body size, these are the largest structures built by any mammal not including humans.”
Although the new study doesn’t yet fully prove that gophers created theMima mounds, it does prove that pocket gophers are certainly capable of creating these Great Pyramids.
Mima mounds are found on every continent except Antarctica. In the U.S., Mima mounds were common in the prairie lands of the plains before the land was converted to farm. However, Washington State has preserved an area of Mima mounds as a national landmark just south of the city of Olympia.
It’s amazing to hear that such a small mammal not only created such an impact on the landscape but to did it generation after generation. Truly, incredible. If the pocket gopher theory is correct, I think any possibility of a third “CaddyShack” film should involve the Mima mounds in some way, don’t you agree?
Image Source: Morgan.Davis/Flickr