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Adaptations of Australian Animals to Desert Conditions

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Adaptations of Australian Animals to Desert Conditions

Australian desert animals are exposed to such conditions as scarcity of food, increased body temperature, and dehydration. However, through behavioral, physiological, and anatomical adaptations, they can survive in the harsh outback. What specific functions allow desert animals to conserve water and reduce heat gain while maintaining homeostasis? How is metabolism affected? For many Australian animals, enzymes or cells are altered and hormones adjusted. Australian Western chestnut mice exhibit a specific physiological adaptation of recent discovery. These mice are able to regain glycogen through endogenous carbon sources after periods of exercise, thereby making up for scarce food resources. Behaviorally, poikilotherms adapt to harsh desert conditions through quiescence, or inactivity during the day, and panting or licking for evaporative cooling. What other seemingly ordinary ways have Australian animals allowed for their survival? Research explains how Australian animals have adapted, such that their physiology and lifestyles prevent susceptibility to harsh desert conditions.

Introduction

What exactly are the conditions to which Australian desert animals have adapted? In the summer, air temperatures can reach more than 110° F, plus intense sunlight can increase the effective temperature to at least 140° F. Also, rainfall is low during this time of year. As a comparison, under these conditions a human would need more than ten quarts of water a day, but red kangaroos adapted to water shortages may only need two to three quarts each week or two. (Dawson, "Red Kangaroos," 44) Also, due to extreme heat, plants sources of food are scarce. (Barboza, 29) How have animals ...

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