How do animals cope with HEAT?

 
In order to survive and carry on with digestion, energy production, and other biological processes, animal tissue on both the inside and outside of the body must stay within a fairly narrow range of temperature. This poses quite a challenge in areas where the temperature of the environment regularly exceeds that range. How do animals cope with this excess heat?

 

Heat Avoidance
 
The simplest way to avoid getting overheated is to reduce exposure to the sun and other sources of heat (like rocks that absorb the sun’s heat) — when this is possible. From horned lizards in the American southwest to kangaroos in Australia, animals are smart enough to remain in the shade during the hottest hours of the day. Some animals bury themselves underground where the temperature is cooler. Some tuck themselves away in rock crevices, caves, or other hiding places. Most just hang out in the shade of a tree or bush, and many have a lifestyle of hunting at night and sleeping during the day.

 
Heat Release
 
Another way animals stay cool is to release some heat from their body. We do this by sweating, while our dogs and various other animals pant. Owls do something similar by opening their mouth and fluttering their throat, forcing hot air out. Kangaroos, while hanging out in the shade, will lick their arms, creating their own version of “sweat”. As the moisture evaporates, it has a cooling effect. Some animals with large ears or other elongated body parts are equipped with an extra supply of tiny blood vessels in that region, close to the surface of the skin. When they are hot, blood flows to these areas in abundance, releasing some of its heat to the air.

 
Heat Tolerance
 
Some animals are actually able to survive when their internal temperature exceeds the “normal” range. For example, camels can tolerate a body temperature of about 104 degrees Fahrenheit. There are also heat-resistant insects, including the world’s most heat tolerant animal: Cataglyphis species — desert ants!
 
Some bacteria actually prefer heat extremes. They are called thermophiles:
thermo = “heat” + phile = “fondness for” or “lover of”

 

Here’s a BBC Africa clip on the world’s most heat-resistant animal:

 

And here’s another fun YouTube video, counting down 12 Ways Creatures Beat the Heat:

 

More on this topic:
BBC Nature: Heat Tolerant
DesertUSA
Desert Adaptations
Adaptations – Hot Climates
Chilling Out, Warming Up
Wikipedia: Thermoregulation
BBC Africa: Sahara

 


 

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