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Animals at the extremes: The desert environment

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Animal life has adapted to survive in the most unlikely and inhospitable habitats. This free course, Animals at the extremes: The desert environment, 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 free course 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.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 14 hours
  • Updated Thursday 11th October 2012
  • Intermediate level
  • Posted under Natural History
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Animals at the extremes: The desert environment


Unit image

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 subject area [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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