Animals Adaptations to Harsh Environments

Animals amaze us with their capacity to exist and thrive in the darkest, driest, hottest, or coldest places in the world. Fanimal has compiled a list of some of the toughest creatures out there and provided insight into their natural mechanisms for adapting to harsh conditions. Below are seven different animals that can teach us about resilience, survival, and endurance.

Wood Frog
If you have ever visited the north eastern part North America, then there is a good chance you have seen a wood frog. These creatures live in more northern regions of the world as they are particularly tolerant of cold weather. One of the most unique abilities the wood frog has is to survive being frozen and it does so year after year. The Alaskan Wood Frog can survive -60 degree Fahrenheit conditions while frozen. Wood frogs in general can thrive in 70% frozen water. During freezing times, hearts can stop beating for weeks at a time. Some species are known to go through many freezing and thawing cycles throughout colder months because their blood manages to keep all circulatory systems going.

These long-legged animals are tolerant of sandy, hot, and dry conditions. There are three main ways camels survive in the desert. First, they have internal systems for  fighting off sand. With third clear eyelids and two rows of long eyelashes, their eyes stay protected from blowing sand. They have the ability to shut their nostrils during sand storms. The second way they can handle desertous terrain is by having extremely thick lips that can endure pointy and thorny plants which is fortunate for these herbivores. Lush vegetation is hard to find in deserts therefore camels are not picky eaters. The third way they are able to live in harsh, dry conditions is by drinking 30 gallons of water in under 13 minutes and being able to rehydrate faster than any other mammal. When food and water run scarce, camel’s humps, which consist of stored fat, metabolize the fat when times get tough for sustenance.

Scorpions possess the amazing ability to withstand some pretty harsh conditions. They can refrain from eating for up to a year and on average eat between 5-50 times per year. Some species can withstand being underwater for at least 48 hours. They also can tolerate high temperatures; scorpions live in environments reaching 117 degrees Fahrenheit. Having sensitive eyes is another way they can survive in the desert. Through starlight, they use night shadows as guidance for hunting and being able to find prey. And some scorpions of the Psammophilic species have bristles known as setea that help them to walk across sand without losing their traction or sinking.

The Ruppell’s Vulture
The Ruppell’s Vulture is native to the Sahel belt; a region in Central Africa that spans 3,360 miles between the Sahara Desert and southern forested areas. It is renown for being the highest flying bird known as it cruises at heights of 37,000 ft above sea level. These vultures have a unique protein that allows them to absorb more oxygen more efficiently in altitudes where oxygen is thinner. They have backward-pointing spikes on their tongues to help tear meat from bone, and like all vultures, their heads and necks are bare of feathers because they are prone to sticking their entire head inside their prey when eating it. This would leave any existing neck feathers pretty messy!  With only 30,000 The Ruppell’s Vultures known, they are considered endangered animals.

Snailfish are creatures that enjoy living in dark and deep places in the earth. There was recently a new species of snailfish discovered that lived five miles under ocean water. This is a remarkable phenomenon as pressure 5 miles below sea level is 1,000 times higher than that above sea level. This fish is a record breaking one as it is the deepest fish ever found. For most other creatures, living that far down into the earth would kill organisms in a matter of seconds.

Arctic Hare
Arctic Hare live in harsh environment of the North American tundra. These warm blooded creatures do not hibernate but survive the cold with several different behavior and physiological adaptations. They stay on low surface areas to conserve bodily warmth. Hares like to dig shelters in the snow and huddle together to stay warm. Living in the Arctic doesn’t provide a lot of sustained food options; hares survive by eating woody plants, mosses, and lichens which may have to be obtained through digging deep into the snow. Other seasonal items they eat are berries, leaves, roots, and bark. Aside from protecting themselves from frigid temperatures, hares defend themselves against predators with their camouflaged fur. It changes color according to the season thus becoming more white in the winter.

Tiger Beetles
Tiger Beetles love living in very hot and dry places. Like most insects, beetles use the sun and heated dirt or soil around them to warm up and move around. Tiger Beetles must control the temperatures of their own bodies and can’t operate efficiently  if they are too hot or too cold. It’s important for their bodily temperature to stay warm because if it is cold, they are are much slower runners and therefore unable to catch prey or escape predators. However they need mechanisms to avoid getting too hot as well since they live in hot, dry, and sometimes sandy areas. Some, tiger beetles have backs are lighter in color which helps reflect heat, and most tiger beetles have lots of thin hairs on the underside of their bodies that help to dissipate  the heat rising from the ground.

Sources: National Geographic, Live Science, Blue Abaya, Today I Found Out, Ask a Biologist, Earthly Universe