Ariocarpus agavoides (2015)

PhotoBy Chris Deem (July 2015)

It is a dark refuge. The musty scent of the hard earth is intimate, comforting.

This is the burrow of a small female echidna. She has the appearance of a creature from another time. Her heart is pounding, and she is waiting. Her short brown spines scrape against the side of the burrow as she turns to lie on her side.

It is time. She has only her short, clawed feet, her small snout and her instincts. It will have to be enough.

She struggles alone in the dark as her single leathery egg emerges. The fur on her face is powdered with soil.

It is a dark refuge. Somehow, she has secured her tiny egg in the soft hair of her small rudimentary pouch.

One day I was reading about this strange, egg-laying mammal, when a question came to my mind. Later, I pondered a similar question as I was reading about this month’s featured cactus species, Ariocarpus agavoides.

In my opinion, like the echidna, this Ariocarpus species seems a bit primitive. For an Ariocarpus, it matures quite rapidly. I also read that some plants in this species have small spines, which are retained into their maturity.

To me, Ariocarpus agavoides just seems different. It was even placed in a different genus once. At that time, it was called a Neogomesia.

The species is found in two separate locations. One of its two natural habitats is in Tamaulipas, the other is in San Luis Potosi.

I suppose it is only curiosity, but I can’t seem to shake this feeling that they were the first of their kinds. Is it possible the echidna was the first mammal species to have a pouch? A similar question could also be asked: Was Ariocarpus agavoides the first Ariocarpus?