Natural Environment Reference


A genus of large antelope, the oryx is native to the various arid parts of Africa. This herbivore is well-adapted to surviving in dry conditions and can live up to ten months without drinking water by reducing perspiration and minimizing urine production. It is recognized by its beautiful colors and long, almost straight horns. Once widespread across Africa, the oryx is now endangered due to extensive hunting and climate change, with two of its four species coming close to extinction.


The term refers to mineral deposits (typically metals) in the earth's crust that can be extracted for various uses, such as for use as pigment when ground, as well as for profit. Common types of ore include iron, copper, zinc, lead, and gold.


The common nighthawk, also called a bullbat, is a small nocturnal bird that is not related to the hawk, although the two do share some coloring patterns. The nighthawk lives in woodlands, fields, and clearings across the continental United States, and feeds primarily on flying insects that it hunts at night. Nighthawks generally are solitary creatures, but occasionally, for foraging purposes, form flocks. The Southwestern nighthawks are recognizable by their dark gray markings and wings that have a white stripe that runs between the tip and the shoulder.


The plural form of the word nebula. Nebulae are interstellar clouds of gas and dust that exist outside the solar system. There are two kinds of nebulae: extragalactic nebulae, a huge collection of stars and dust or galaxies, and galactic nebulae, made of interstellar medium or a cloud of dust that exists between stars.

Navajo Springs

Also known as Tó Sido in Navajo, these hot springs were the site of a small community with a trading post until the 1950s. Prehistoric Chacoan roads have been discovered in the area.

mule deer

Mule deer are easy to identify due to their large mule-like ears. They are brownish-gray in color, have a white rump patch, and a small white tail with a black tip. There are believed to be several subspecies, including the black-tailed deer. They do not run as other deer, but have a distinctive bounding leap that can cover distances up to 8 yards.


A mid-sized hooved mammal with a short head and mane and long ears that is the offspring of two different species -- the donkey and the horse. Most mules are sterile and therefore these animals are not classified as their own species. For the most part, these animals are used for labor, namely, carrying, pulling, and transporting goods in pre-industiral and early-industrial settings.

mountain lion

Also known as cougar or puma, the mountain lion is a large wild cat native to the Western Hemisphere. Mountain lions can be found in a variety of habitats across North and South America, including forests, mountains, swamps, or deserts. Adult mountain lions are brown in color and reach a length of about 4 feet (1.2 meters), not including their long tail, and their weight averages 136 pounds (62 kg).

The mountain lion appears in various Native American traditional lore, such as the Keres and Tewa creation myths, in which it is associated with the pre-emergence place. In Zuni tradition, the mountain lion is the beast-god of the North.


A bird (Mimus polyglottos) that mimics the songs of other birds and that can reproduce up to 20 different songs in a short amount of time. The mockingbird is a gray bird with white markings on the tail and whose habitat extends from the northern U.S. to Mexico.


Mesquite is a spiny, desert legume which grows in two forms: a low-to-the-ground prickly shrub and a tree that grows up to fifty feet tall. Mesquite grows in thickets throughout the Southwest, and due to the dryness of this environment, the roots grow deep in order to reach water. Mesquite wood can be used for furniture and for sweet-smelling firewood. The beans that grow from the plant are sweet and, when roasted and ground into a flour, have comprised a significant food source for many indigenous desert dwelling populations in the region.


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