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Animals at the extremes: The desert environment
Animal life has adapted to survive in the most unlikely and inhospitable habitats. This...
Animal life has adapted to survive in the most unlikely and inhospitable habitats. This unit looks at the surprisingly diverse desert climates throughout the world and mammals, birds, lizards and amphibians that survive there. It splits these animals into three groups according to their strategy for survival: evaders, evaporators and endurers, then discusses how these strategies work on a biochemical and physiological level.
By the end of this unit you should be able to:
- define and use, or recognise definitions and applications of, each of the bold terms;
- provide examples that show there is a continuum of desert climates and environments that link to diversity of flora and fauna;
- explain, with examples, the thermoregulatory strategies of evaders, evaporators and endurers, and interpret relevant data;
- describe the importance of integration of behaviour, anatomy, physiology and biochemistry in the study of animals that live in deserts;
- explain physiological mechanisms of water conservation and cooling in named evaders, evaporators and endurers, and interpret relevant data;
- recognise potential ambiguity and uncertainty in attributing observed physiological or biochemical features and responses to high T
a and aridity to genotypic adaptation, phenotypic plasticity or acclimatisation;
- explain how the role of heat-shock proteins (Hsps) in cellular responses to temperature extremes links to the molecular mechanism for control of transcription of Hsp genes and interpret blots that track Hsp transcription;
- explain the use of integration across related species in designing and interpreting experiments to investigate whether features such as basal metabolic rate (BMR) and reduced total evaporative water loss (TEWL) in desert species are adaptive, or are derived from phylogenetic constraints or phenotypic flexibility.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 The desert climate: An introduction
- 2 Environments and populations
- 3 Integrating across levels of analysis
- 3.1 Introduction
- 3.2 Integration of anatomy and behaviour with biochemical and physiological strategies in evaders
- 3.3 Integration of anatomical features and biochemical and physiological strategies in evaporators
- 3.4 Integration of anatomical features and biochemical and physiological strategies in endurers
- 3.5 Summary of Section 3
- 4 Integrating across disciplines
- 5 Integrating across species
- 6 Phylogeny and cladistic analysis
- 7 Conclusion
- 8 Questions
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Animals at the extremes: The desert environment
This unit is the first in a series of three on Animals at the extreme. It is concerned with the integration of behaviour anatomy, physiology and biochemistry in diverse vertebrates that live in deserts. Once you have completed this unit, you will be all the more able to appreciate the linked units that follow, Animals at the extreme: hibernation and torpor and Animals at the extreme: the polar environment. These units build on and develop some of the science you will study here.
This unit is from our archive and is an adapted extract from Animal physiology (S324) which is no longer taught by The Open University. If you want to study formally with us, you may wish to explore other courses we offer in.
This is an extract from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Natural History courses or view the range of currently available OU Natural History courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Wednesday, 20th July 2011
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements section.
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