Dog weather, drizzle, and clouds starlings: How animals deal with the weather

There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes – that’s easy to say when you’re human. But how do you prevent hippos from burning, what do mosquitoes do during rain, and where do the red bird hide? And does the snail feel like it’s raining outside? These three summer weather reports show how resilient the different animals are.

Seagulls are famous for performing the “rain dance” and imitating drops

heavy rains
Chance: crash or predation

You’d be just a mosquito in a rainstorm. One drop easily weighs fifty times your body weight. Hiding seems to be the best option. But what if you are late, or if there are no plants nearby to shelter in? Won’t you fall forever?

In 2012, American biologists discovered that mosquitoes benefit from their strong exoskeleton and light weight during rains. They filmed malaria mosquitoes flying through the rain in flight. The mosquito itself has a body about 3 millimeters long and weighs about 2 micrograms, and raindrops have imitated up to 100 micrograms. “Compare it to a person lying under a bus,” the researchers wrote. PNAS.

But due to the fact that the mosquito is very light, the drop does not burst and remains fairly fixed in shape. This reduces the impact of the collision. Because of this, and due to the protective external structure, the mosquito survives. Long wings and legs strike much more than a relatively small body. But wherever it is hit, the flying mosquito always manages to escape from the sides if it flies high enough. First, it coincides with a decrease in the length of the body from 5 to 20, then it manages to break free and fly away. This loosening is likely caused by the hydrophobic bristles on the insect’s body. A mosquito that flies just above the ground is unlucky, and it can be smashed or drowned.

Mosquitoes cannot avoid raindrops. The researchers suggest that other insects may be able to do this by flying quickly back or sideways – but whether and how often this actually works is unknown. The physicists wrote that larger insects, such as dragonflies and bumblebees, are not lucky enough to have a drop explode on them. fluid physics. The fact that they survived such a strong collision is probably due to the fact that the movements of their wings reduce the impact. In addition, almost all flying insects have water-repellent wings covered with nanoscales. Butterfly wings are a good example of this.

Bats are also affected by rain, mentioned in 2011 Biology Letters. Not only is echolocation—which insects track—more difficult, it also costs them more energy to keep warm. So they need more food while there is less to be found.

Birds sometimes fly during light showers, but prefer dry weather. Just before a shower, you often see them fly low above the ground, because the air pressure drops and so insects also fly close to the ground. Some bird species benefit from rain in a different way. Gulls are famous for performing the “rain dance” and imitating drops. Kicking through the grass, earthworms collectively soar above the ground – and before they realize they’ve been tricked, they actually end up in the beak of a hungry seagull.

The camel’s nose turns out to be an intriguing maze inside

hot wave
Risks: dehydration, overheating or burns

Some animals, such as snails and salamanders, breathe through their skin and actually benefit from rain. If it is too hot and too sunny, they should hide in damp places – otherwise they will dry out and cannot absorb oxygen.

Mollusks in particular are sensitive to drought, and snails can still hide in their shells. If they are ‘inside’ during this dry period, they are still well acquainted with the weather forecast: through the lime-thin house they can feel every touch, even those raindrops.

Species that live in the desert often have special adaptations to deal with prolonged drought. For example, the sand dunes on the border of Namibia and South Africa are the domain of the desert rain frog, Breviceps macrops. In that region it rarely rains, so the frog absorbs moisture from the sand, through its transparent stomach. The drier it is, the deeper it digs.

A species of Australian frog, cyclorana australia, it produces a sticky cocoon during dry spells and burrows underground in a kind of “dry sleep” until the weather becomes wetter, while surviving on the moisture in its bladder. The last Australian inhabitant of the desert is the mountain demon (Moloch Horidus), a lizard with highly spiny scales. All kinds of small channels pass through this horned skin, through which it can absorb water from the air or the environment. Then the water flows towards his mouth through these channels.

Kangaroo rats live along the dry southwest coast of the United States, and they get all their moisture from the seeds they eat. Their urine is very concentrated and they never sweat. Some types of kangaroo rats can slow down their breathing, reducing the amount of fluid lost through exhalation.

Arabian sand gazelles have also found a way to lower their respiratory rate, according to an article published in 2006: The liver and heart—organs that use a relatively large amount of oxygen—are exceptionally small. As a result, there are no ungulates that evaporate as little water as the gazelle.

Besides drought, overheating is another danger in the desert. For this reason, the fennec fox, the desert fox, has exceptionally large ears, through which it loses a lot of heat: this helps prevent overheating.

Camels and camels do not store moisture in their humps, which is often believed, but fat. These fats are useful when they have to endure long periods without food, but they also work to regulate body temperature. During the day, fat absorbs heat, and during cold nights in desert regions, this heat is gradually released.

As for the scarcity of water, the body of the camel has a different adaptation: the nose of the camel turns out to be an intriguing labyrinth inside, which makes the surface area of ​​the mucous membrane very large. When you exhale, the air in that nasal labyrinth gets so cool that moisture condenses from it and can be absorbed by camels. Likewise, camel blood according to the book Medicine and surgery in beauty It adapts to prolonged drought. For example, the oval shape of red blood cells allows species to drink large amounts at once without causing a buildup of harmful fluids.

In addition to overheating and dehydration, the third danger in sunny weather is sunburn. As humans we can protect ourselves with sunscreen, clothing, and umbrellas, but in the animal kingdom there are all kinds of other solutions as well. Hippopotamus sweat, for example, contains an orange pigment that absorbs ultraviolet rays. As a result, it works according to temper nature2004 article as a natural sunscreen. In 2015, American biologists joined eLife That fish can produce a substance gladusol, which protects against harmful ultraviolet rays.

Even for seabirds, it is undesirable to end up in a real storm

summer storm
Chance: Blowing or cracking

Some birds are made for light winds. Black albatrosses, for example, benefit from stronger westerly winds during El Niño weather, according to a 2016 article published in Royal Society Interface Magazine. Around that time, they are sometimes for days looking for food for their young, and a little tailwind can help. Of course it is important that the winds die after this, otherwise they will have bad luck on the return trip. It is also known that females of large albatrosses are able to expand their feeding range thanks to strong wind currents, which leads to greater reproductive success.

But even for seabirds, it is undesirable to end up in a real storm: after tropical cyclones, there are often large numbers of dead birds. Land-dwelling species can still take shelter in trees or bays as much as they can, but there is no refuge in the sea – unless you are exactly in the shelter. In a pre-print article for bioRxiv, Japanese biologists wrote about a project in which they fitted striped shear waters with GPS trackers. During a hurricane, birds seem to fly towards the eye of the storm, because there is no wind there.

Not every bird chooses this tactic. Other studies show that some seabirds, including red theropod boobies and frigatebirds, fly hundreds of miles to avoid a tropical storm. Some wild birds are also known for their ability to avoid storms in time. At the end of 2014, for example, there was an article in the language current biology which showed that the bird is yellow-winged (flower wingsHe flew about 1,500 km to avoid a hurricane. The researchers wrote that they likely heard the approaching storm thanks to ultra-low ultrasound, inaudible to humans. (By the way, there are also other climatic conditions that can cause migratory birds to veer off course, such as fog. Wherever possible, birds try to avoid fog and low clouds, but if they end up inside, they lose sight of each other and the road more quickly,” he wrote. The authors.Italian biologists in 2019 in Frontiers of Ecology and Evolution.)

Animals also react to bad weather conditions underwater. This is how it was in 2003 Journal of Fish Biology How small black-headed sharks swim in the depths of the sea before the approach of a storm: they were supposed to respond to the sudden drop in air pressure. Many other fish species are also known to alter their swimming behavior as a result of changes in air pressure.

On land, many animal species try to avoid storms by taking cover or fleeing. This doesn’t always work: There are examples from the US of cows being swept away by a hurricane, or simply crushing under the roof of a barn that collapsed due to a storm.

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