7 ways animals deal with summer heat
Summertime has arrived in the northern hemisphere, and with it some sweltering heat. Animals have developed different ways of dealing with this — from mud baths to bald spots.
How humans beat the heat
When it gets hot (40 C is 104 F) we sweat. Our brain tells our body that it's time to cool down. The eccrine sweat glands get to work, and soon your face and armpits will be dripping. Excess body heat is used to evaporate some of that sweat off of our skin, and that's how the body cools down. But we also rely on things like fans and umbrellas to keep cool. How do animals manage without such tech?
Pigs: A roll in the mud
As humans like to take a cold shower when they're warm, pigs like to wallow in mud. Swine cannot sweat, so they need to find other ways to cool down. Mudbaths are more effective than a dip in a stream or pond, because the fluid in mud evaporates off the pig's mud-coated body more gradually than pure water would. This keeps pigs cool for longer.
Fennec foxes: Those ears!
These desert dwellers have the largest ears relative to their body size of any member of the canine family, which includes foxes, dogs, wolves and jackals. Fennec foxes don't just use their ears to track prey underneath the sand, but also to dispel heat. That is useful in places like the Sahara desert, where temperatures can climb to 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit)!
Elephants: Cooling hair
Fur on animals is usually there to keep them warm. But in elephants, the small hairs growing on their body do the opposite job ― they help them cool down. Princeton University researchers found that the hairs work like cooling fins, helping elephants to dissipate heat more effectively. The hairs can conduct heat away from the elephant's body, like electricity through a wire.
Squirrels: Bald spots
Among the animals whose fur keeps them warm is the squirrel. In summer, that's not very useful, of course. But squirrels have adapted. Their paws have spots that are hairy in winter and bald in summer. This is where these animals dissipate its heat ― at least a little. They still need to stay in the shade when it gets hot, preferably close to a lake or stream, where they can access water.
Despite what you might've heard, camels don't store water in their humps; rather, fat. They can convert this fat into energy when they must go without other resources for a long period of time. It also makes it easier for them to release heat from their bodies. Camels can go for weeks or even months without water, and then drink more than 100 liters (26.4 gallons) in one go.
Border collies and other dogs cannot sweat through their skin, so they release heat via their paw pads and noses. They also pant with their tongue hanging out ― they'll breathe in up to 400 times a minute when it gets hot! Their body cools down because of the moisture evaporating on their tongue, and they exchange the hot air from their lungs with cooler external air.
Keep your pets cool!
Many pets cannot regulate their body temperature very well, and are at risk of getting heatstroke when it gets too hot. Dogs are just one example. Don't leave them in the car in summer ― temperatures can quickly become dangerously high. Small pets like guinea pigs or bunnies always need enough shade and water in their enclosures. If it gets too hot out, keep them inside and ensure fresh air flow.