Surviving the Heat

Surviving the Heat

We are bracing for the hottest summer on record globally. Humans have interesting ways of surviving the heat, although people do die from it. In the wild, we see ways that animals are designed to withstand heat, drought, and water issues. Here are a few examples:

SAUDI ARABIAN GAZELLES. When the temperature increases, the heart and liver of these animals shrink, and breathing slows, reducing the water lost with each breath.

STORKS and some other birds cool down through urohidrosis. The stork urinates on its scaly legs, and evaporation enables it to lower its body temperature in high heat conditions.

NAMIB LIZARDS AND BEETLES climb a dune to get high enough to be in the early morning fog. The beetle will do a handstand, sending moisture down its back and into its mouth. The lizards simply open their mouths and gulp in the mist. In both cases, they cool their bodies while obtaining water.

JESUS LIZARDS get their name because they walk on water. To accomplish this, they have long toes on their rear feet with fringes of skin that unfurl in the water, increasing their surface area. They slap their splayed feet hard against the water as they rapidly move their legs, creating tiny air pockets to keep them from sinking. This not only lets them escape predation, but it also cools the lizard as the water evaporates from their legs and feet.

We are all familiar with dogs and other animals panting to cool themselves. The point is that animals, and even plants, have methods for surviving the heat. Humans sweat to cool our bodies by evaporation. Humans are also the only ones with the ability to change our environment. We need to learn from the animal life God created and adjust how we live and what we do to protect our climate.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: Natural History magazine November 2007.