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Science

Evolution

Adaptations - hot climates

The camel

single-humped camel in the desert

The camel is adapted to life in a hot climate

Camels live in deserts that are hot and dry during the day, but cold at night. They are well adapted for survival in the desert. Camels have:

  • Large, flat feet to spread their weight on the sand.
  • Thick fur on the top of the body for shade, and thin fur elsewhere to allow easy heat loss.
  • A large surface area to volume ratio to maximise heat loss.
  • The ability to go for a long time without water (they don't store water in their humps, but they lose very little through urination and sweating).
  • The ability to tolerate body temperatures up to 42°C.
  • Slit-like nostrils and two rows of eyelashes to help keep the sand out.

Desert plants

Cacti in the American desert

A cactus is adapted to life in a hot climate

Cacti are well adapted for survival in the desert. They have:

  • Stems that can store water.
  • Widespread root systems that can collect water from a large area.

In addition, cacti have spines instead of leaves. These minimise the surface area and so reduce water loss by transpirationtranspiration: the loss of water from leaves by evaporation. It is much faster when stomata are open than when they are closed. The spines also protect the cacti from animals that might eat them.

 

Watch this clip to see how the saguaro cactus stores water in its stem.

Find out more about the saguaro cactus on BBC Nature.

Other adaptations

Animals and plants may have specific features that adapt them to their environment. These include barbs and spines, poisons and warning colours that deter predators and herbivores. Some harmless species may even resemble a poisonous or dangerous species to increase their chances of survival.

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