Monday, February 6, 2023

This egg-laying mammal sheds heat in a strange way

(CNN) — The Australian echidna has developed a strange way of cooling itself: It blows bubbles from its beak-shaped snout.

The short-beaked echidna is common in Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea and, along with the platypus, is one of Earth’s few monotremes that are egg-laying mammals, and has existed for millions of years. Echidnas are also known as spiny anteaters with a long sticky tongue, habit of eating ants and termites, and a body covered with no spines.

Echidna Heat

The short-beaked echidna is native to Australia. credit: Avalon/Universal Images Group Editorial/Getty Images

Despite being one of the oldest species in the world, the echidna is known to be sensitive to heat. Previous research has suggested that a body temperature of 38 °C and an air temperature of 35 °C are lethal to the animal.

However, this unusual creature lives in the extremely hot and dry regions of Australia, where its survival seems impossible.

Now, new research has revealed how the short-beaked echidna has adapted to combat the heat, something that will become even more important as the world warms due to the climate crisis.

Scientists at Curtin University, Australia, used thermal vision cameras to investigate non-contact echidnas in the Dryandra Forest and Boyagin Nature Reserve, located about 170 kilometers southeast of Perth.

Researchers recorded infrared images of 124 echidnas for 34 days over 12 months to see how they shed heat. The academic journal Biology Letters published a study detailing the results on Tuesday.

The researchers did not expect to find that echidnas blow bubbles of mucus to regulate their internal temperature.

Dr Christine Cooper, Senior Lecturer in the Curtin School of Molecular and Molecular Biology, and lead author of the study, said: “We have discovered a number of fascinating ways echidnas use to manage heat, which allows the animal to be active at much higher temperatures than previously thought. allows it to happen.” Life Sciences, in a statement.

“Echidnas blow bubbles through their nostrils, which burst at the tip of their nose, moistening it. As it evaporates, the moisture cools their blood, which means the tip of their nose is an evaporative Acts as a window.”

Thermal data also showed that echidnas can lose heat through the underside of their legs and feet, but can use their dorsal spines to retain body heat if necessary.

Echidna Heat

Thermal imaging helped researchers determine how echidnas lose heat. Credit: Dr. Christine Cooper/Curtin University

The researchers were surprised to find that the echidnas were active despite the fact that the air temperature was several degrees above “lethal” levels for the animals.

In summer, echidnas adopt nocturnal behavior to avoid the heat. But they have also been observed taking shelter inside hollow logs where the air temperature is well above their limit.

The latest findings suggest that previous estimates of high temperature echidnas “may be underestimated”, according to the new study.

“Echidnas can’t pant, sweat or lick themselves to lose heat, so they can be affected by rising temperatures, and our work shows alternative ways that echidnas can lose heat,” Cooper said. , explaining how they may be active in warmer conditions.”

“Understanding the thermal biology of echidnas is also important for predicting how they may respond to a warming climate.”

Next, he and his colleagues want to estimate how much heat echidna can withstand by estimating how well they can cope with different environmental conditions and warming.

These resilient animals have proven more resilient to higher temperatures than previously thought, says Cooper, but that doesn’t mean rising temperatures don’t present challenges for them.

Nation World News Desk
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