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Pack Rat Piles: Rodent rubbish provides ice age thermometer

For a person, life as a pack rat is one of obsessively collecting, say, newspapers, computer parts, food containers, or maybe all of these. But a literal pack rat gathers plant fragments, bone bits, fecal pellets, and even, occasionally, eyewear.

"A friend of mine lost his glasses to a pack rat," says Kenneth Cole of the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Ariz. In the September Geology, Cole and a colleague report that pack rats' fossilized collections, secreted away for millennia in caves and rocky overhangs, can improve the portrait of global temperatures at the end of the last ice age.

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