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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.

After studying this 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.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 14 hours
  • Updated Wednesday 2nd March 2016
  • Intermediate level
  • Posted under Natural History
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Animals at the extremes: The desert environment


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This course 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 course, you will be all the more able to appreciate the linked courses that follow, Animals at the extreme: hibernation and torpor and Animals at the extreme: the polar environment. These courses build on and develop some of the science you will study here.

This OpenLearn course provides a sample of Level 3 study in Science [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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