Animals Demonstrate Strategies to Beat Rising Heat | Focusing on Wildlife
Animals Demonstrate Strategies to Beat Rising Heat | Focusing on Wildlife

2023 has broken records, but not in a good way. With the hottest day, week, and month all occurring this year, the climate crisis has become a stark reality faced by human and nonhuman animals around the globe.

The United Nations has even declared that the Earth has seen the end of Global warming and has now reached a stage of “global boiling”. The rapidly rising temperatures have left wild animals in a precarious position. Climate change, habitat loss, and Pollution have imperiled species around the globe.

Research indicates that high heat can even have negative impacts on animal reproductive success. To try and stay cool, many species have developed special behaviors in attempts to keep themselves comfortable.

Some species combat heat by “splooting.” Known by other names such as “pancaking” and “frogging”, this splay-legged position puts large amounts of an animal’s body in contact with the cooler ground. This allows them to release heat and cool down. Scientifically, this process is called “heat dumping”. The flattened position may look familiar to humans who share space with a dog or cat. However, wild animals such as squirrels do this as well.

Other animals are evolving physical characteristics that may help them with the increasing temperatures. One species of parrot in Australia has larger beaks, some shrews have developed bigger ears, and some bat wings are growing larger. However, scientists are not sure that these changes will help the species survive and instead point to it as an alarm bell for the impacts Climate change is having.

Other animal cooling tactics involve bodily fluids. Red kangaroos in Australia have a network of veins and capillaries in their forearms. The kangaroos lick their forearms covering them in saliva. Then as the fluid evaporates, it carries heat along with it which lowers the marsupial’s body temperatures.

Another mammal, echidnas, combat high body temperatures by blowing snot bubbles. Long-legged birds, including storks, use a method called “urohidrosis” to cool themselves down. The birds defecate onto their legs. The liquid evaporates and helps cool the birds. Some other birds regulate open their mouths and vibrate their throat membranes to release heat.

Understanding the methods animals use to cool themselves can help scientists better understand how extreme heat affects them. It may also help them identify species that are particularly vulnerable to increased stress due to rising temperatures.

Climate change is causing irreversible damage to the environment. The planet is rapidly losing plant and animal species, ecosystems are being destroyed, and devastating extreme weather events are becoming more and more common.

Sign this petition to help Prevent a Climate Catastrophe!

This article by Willow Lynn was first published by OneGreenPlanet on 7 August 2023. 

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