Staying cool in the summer is easy for us, all we have to do is turn up the AC, stay inside or take a swim. For animals though, things are a lot different. Other than finding shade and resting during the hottest part of the day, some animals have developed interesting ways to beat the heat.
Today we’re going to talk about some of the various ways animals survive in the heat, no matter how hot it might get.
If you were to ask which animal is most able to handle the heat, you’d probably say it’s the camel. There is no doubt, camels are built for high temperatures. They live and thrive in climates that are hot and arid with few natural resources. So how do they do it? Sometimes people think the secret is water in the camel’s humps, but this isn’t the case. Camel humps store fatty tissues that give them sustenance when there is little food to go around. The humps also help regulate body temperatures. And perhaps the most unusual adaptation is their blood cells. These have a unique shape that helps them retain water and drastically reduces the effects of dehydration.
Sheep often live in areas that experience multiple seasons, so they have to deal with both cold and heat. As a result of this, sheep are fairly resilient when it comes to temperature. During the hottest part of the year, sheep naturally slow down and seek out shade. They also start eating more greenery, especially if there is limited water around. This is because the greens help them stay hydrated even if they can’t find freshwater. Sheep are often sheared before the hottest part of the year, which also helps them regular their body temperature. This isn’t a natural adaptation but a part of domestication that helps them stay comfortable.
There are many types of elk living throughout the United States and in Canada. They tend to live in woodlands and mixed habitats like in national parks. During the warmest seasons of the year, Elk naturally reduce their activity during the day and become more active at twilight. You may notice that Elk become stationary during the heat and spend most of the day standing in the shade. They also seek out water so they can cool off during the hottest part of the day. Like other animals, they get more hydration from increasing their intake of green vegetation.
Ostriches are unique-looking animals, so it’s not surprising that one of the most unique ways of keeping cool belongs to them! Most of their bodies are not covered in feathers, which gives them a bit of a patchwork appearance. To cool off, they spread out their wings to expose their belly and sides, which have no feathers. They sometimes prance or strut in this position as well, to further increase air circulation. This effectively reduces their body temperatures and helps them beat the heat.
Tortoises are cold-blooded animals so they actually need warmth from the environment around them to maintain their body temperature. You will see them basking in the sun to get the heat they need, much like lizards. Just because they are cold-blooded doesn’t mean they can’t get too hot though! When they need to cool off, they seek shade, often under vegetation. Some species will dig a hole or seek out water in order to more dramatically escape the heat.
Animals have adapted to live in extreme climates around the world, all without the use of technology. Some of their methods are clever and innovative, while others are effective evolutionary adaptations. No matter how they do it though, animals get a lot of credit for beating the heat without one of our favorite inventions, the AC!