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As we move into the summer months, humans and animals alike find themselves overheating too often for comfort. But where humans will turn on the AC, animals have evolved amazing ways to keep themselves cool. Check out these amazing animals.
1. Some animals, especially small mammals like rabbits, mice, chipmunks, and squirrels, have big ears that they use to dispel heat. They hold their ears away from their bodies and the large, thin ears allow heat to dissipate quickly.
2. One common cooling tactic that every pet owner knows is shedding. When spring hits, many animals have a hormonal shift that lets their thick winter coats fall out, with a lighter one coming in instead.
3. Another common way to cool down is panting. Breathing out helps get rid of hot breath and pull cooler air back in. Some birds even pant in the same way as dogs and cats.
4. For the animal that doesn’t have a great biological mechanism to beat the heat, the choices can be limited, but there are still ways to survive. Many animals will hide from the heat. Lots of reptiles will burrow or hide in the shade to stay away from the sun. Toads and salamanders hide under leaves, and some fish will even swim into deeper water to stay cooler.
5. One impressive adaptation to heat is called estivation, which is something toads, frogs, snails, and some squirrels do. It’s similar to hibernation in that they seek out a burrow and fall into a kind of sleep that uses less food and keeps them cool as their metabolisms slow. In deserts especially, animals will do this when there isn’t enough food during heat waves.
6. One of the most obvious ways animals stay cool is sweating, just like humans. The evaporating moisture helps keep the body cool. Dogs and cats sweat through their feet, while rabbits can sweat through their lips.
7. Perhaps the grossest method for staying cool comes from storks and vultures, who defecate on their legs during the summer. Bird poop is mostly liquid, which makes the poop like a quick and easy form of sweating. It evaporates and cools the bird down.
8. An obvious way to stay cool is water, but if you don’t have a full lake then some mud will work. Pigs, hippos, boars, and buffalo wallow in mud. Just like sweat, the water evaporates from the mud and cools the animal. Amazingly, the mud actually slows down the evaporation process and keeps the animals cool longer.
9. Elephants use their large ears to keep cool, not only through the same mechanisms as rabbits and squirrels, but also by flapping them like fans and spraying them with water. They can cool the blood moving through their ears by up to 14 degrees.
10. For birds that don’t go the defecation route, there’s another option. Some use gular fluttering, or vibrating the throat muscles. It increases how much evaporation happens in the throat, which is a prime place for cooling in many birds. It doesn’t take much energy to move and is a great way of cooling.
11. Butterflies use their wings to keep their midsections in shade, regulating the temperature as well.