Life at High Temperatures

by Thomas D. Brock

Deadly Yellowstone

© 1994 Yellowstone Association for Natural Science, History & Education, Inc. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 82190.

Plants and animals (including humans) have died in Yellowstone, as a result of accidents or because of changing thermal activity. New hot springs and geysers occasionally erupt in the middle of the lodgepole pine forests that occupy the bulk of the Yellowstone plateau. The photo above shows how the hot water from a tiny new geyser has spread into the forest, killing the small pines. Examples of trees killed by the thermal activity are common throughout the geyser basins, and are mute testimony to the dynamic nature of Yellowstone ecosystems.

A large animal such as a buffalo or elk that stumbles into a boiling pool is quickly killed. There are several examples of hot pools containing the complete skeletons of animals, such as the pool with a complete coyote skeleton shown in the photos below.

Humans have also been killed in Yellowstone hot springs, either by falling in accidentally or by the deluded idea that a hot spring may be suitable for swimming! Death after total immersion in Yellowstone's scalding water is a gruesome process and the fatality rate is 100%!

Life at High Temperatures Table of Contents Previous Page Next Page